Wildcard delight for Konta

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Eastbourne’s Johanna Konta will compete at her hometown tournament at Devonshire Park this week after her all-important Wimbledon wildcard was confirmed on Wednesday.

The hotly-anticipated AEGON International gets underway tomorrow (Saturday) and for the second year running, the local crowds will have one of their own to cheer for as Konta is now certain to attend following her entry into the main draw at SW19 the following week.

Had she not received the wildcard, the 22-year-old would have had to go through the qualifying rounds, casting doubts over whether she would be able to compete at Devonshire Park this week.

She need not worry now, though, and will turn her attentions to the AEGON International, where she will still need to qualify in order to earn a spot in Monday’s main draw.

The British number-three stumbled at the qualifying stage last year as she was beaten by Russian Elena Vesnina in the second round.

Despite this, Konta is hopeful of capitalising on home support to propel herself into the main draw, where a tough crowd of fellow Brit Laura Robson and seven of the world’s top 10 females await.

Konta said, “It is always an exciting time and I am looking forward to the grass season.

“I can say every tournament everywhere is an important time for me but there is nothing like being on British grass.

“And now, having GB next to my names makes it all the more exciting. I am thrilled as it is my home event and I get to see it for one week of the year.

“I love it in Eastbourne as it is my getaway. I train up in London, which is a very busy city, and when I come down here, it is my little haven.”

Currently enjoying the highest ranking of her career at number 140 in the world, Konta is finding fine form ahead of the AEGON International, reaching the semi-finals of the AEGON Trophy in Nottingham last week before losing out to third seed Karolina Pliskova.

Her impressive run earned her a wildcard for the AEGON Classic in Edgbaston this week, where she coasted past Kurumi Nara in the first round.

Konta, who was born in Australia but was granted British citizenship in May 2012, trains in London but resides in Eastbourne. Now, with form and confidence on her side, the chance of success in the place she calls home may not be such a distant dream.

She added, “Training is going well. I’ve got some games on grass under my belt, which is good. I can’t wait to get out there, find my bearings on grass and just enjoy the build-up to Wimbledon. My main target is to continue on the things I’ve been working on and just continue with the process with my team, and the results will come.

“My dream is to be the best I can be and see where that takes me.”

Konta will be joined by British trio Heather Watson, Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong as they hope to challenge some of the world’s best for the prestigious trophy.

Agnieszka Radwanska enters the tournament as top seed, followed by last year’s finalist Angelique Kerber.

Sara Errani, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozaniacki, Nadia Petrova, Maria Kirilenko and 2011 champ Marion Bartoli complete the top eight seeds, while Sam Stosur and Li Na enter as wildcards.

Last year’s victor Tamira Paszek also returns to defend her title.

Former world number six Gilles Simon leads the way in the men’s draw, with fellow big names Juan Monaco, Andreas Seppi and Philipp Kohlschreiber also signing up.

Britain’s James Ward and teenager Kyle Edmund received a wildcard, as did Canadian Milos Raonic.

Former British number one Greg Rusedski will take to the court in a special Father’s Day legends doubles match with Mark Philippoussis, Lindsay Davenport and Rennae Stubbs.

The tournament will take place from June 15-22, with entry into the ground free on the opening day (Saturday).