09 Jul 19
The Scottish Sun
JOHANNA KONTA is gunning to end 42 years of hurt for women’s tennis in Britain “empowered” by her boyfriend and with a killer instinct she has held since childhood.
Not since Virgina Wade won Wimbledon in 1977 has the UK had a female player in the final – but Konta is now just two victories away from breaking that long run of disappointment.
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Jo Konta says boyfriend Jackson Ward empowers her to deliver her best on court
She takes on Barbora Strycova today with the country willing her to finally clinch a Grand Slam title having reached the semi-finals at the All-England club two years ago.
And behind the scenes she will be gaining that extra belief needed to be star from her partner of two years, photographer Jackson Wade.
Konta says the support she receives from her boyfriend has helped her to thrive in the lonely world of tennis, where triumph comes as much from having mental strength to overcome as it does talent.
The 28-year-old said: “My boyfriend empowers me.
“He encourages me to trust my own decisions and be who I am, because he says I’m awesome – so therefore I should believe it too.”
There are sure to be nerves in the locker room before she ventures onto Centre Court knowing she is the favourite to come through against her Czech opponent.
But she will not shut herself away listening to music in the hours before the match starts – instead she will be playing a board game with her pals.
Konta added: “I don’t really listen to music before I go on court.
Jo Konta is aiming to become the first British woman since 1977 to win the Ladies Singles at Wimbledon
Konta and photographer Jackson Ward have been together for two years
“Recently I’ve been playing a lot of Bananagrams with my team. We have to leave enough time before I go on court and the last Bananagrams because things get intense. I need to calm down after that.
“It’s like Scrabble. Once you’ve used up your tiles, you say ‘peel’.”
The man who discovered her when she was a six-year-old growing up in Australia is confident the golden girl has got what it takes to win.
Coach Les Hegyessy said last night: “She has the killer instinct, she will want to win.”
The Hungarian was giving lessons to Johanna’s mum in 1997 when her daughter picked up a racket one day and showed her natural talent.
Les, 76, who lives in Sydney, fondly recalls: “I can remember her forehand and her follow-through were awesome and to get the grip right at that age . . . most children hold the racket in a hammer grip but she held it very sure after a few lessons.
“She has the killer instinct. She hated losing and would bounce the ball in the same spot to get it right.”
Konta always had a competitive streak, one her sister felt the brunt of when they were children.
Jo Konta is three matches away from making British tennis history
Jo playing tennis as a teenager
She has said: “I made my older sister cry playing Monopoly once.
“I wanted the two blue ones. It was Mayfair and Park Lane. She was like, ‘Please don’t buy Park Lane! Please don’t buy Park Lane!’ So, obviously, I bought Park Lane.”
While Jo enjoyed her lessons with Les, it was not until she entered a tournament against other kids that she really caught the tennis bug.
She said: “That’s when my real love for it came. There was never a time when I thought it was just for fun.”
Tennis guru Les Hegyessy discovered Wimbledon star Johanna Konta saying she showed a killer instinct to win from the age of six
The tennis ace admits she has always had a competitive streak
The 28-year-old credits her success on a visualisation technique – playing each point in her mind before tossing the ball in the air
Johanna credits her recent success to a visualisation technique, in which she plays each point in her mind before serving.
It also helps her manage her defeats.
She said: “I get quite stroppy if I lose but I’ve developed skills with a mind coach to help deal with the highs and lows of tennis at this level.”
That mind coach was sports psychologist Juan Coto, who took his own life in 2017 after battling depression.
[quote]There was never a time when I thought tennis was just for fun [/quote]
The Spaniard began working with Jo in 2014 and oversaw her remarkable rise from world No146 to the top ten in just 16 months.
Speaking two years ago, Konta, she said: “Juan was a tremendous influence. That went beyond my tennis career. It was more about me as a human being.
“He did a tremendous job in working on my happiness as a person, dealing with life in general. In turn, he helped me enjoy something I’ve loved since I was a little girl, and to try to be the best at that.”
Jo was born in Sydney to Hungarian parents — dad Gabor, a hotelier, and mum Gabriella, a dentist.
She was part of the Australian tennis development scheme but, in 2004, had her funding cut because she was regarded as lacking the requisite talent and potential.
Jo suffered tragedy three years ago when mind coach Juan Coto was found dead after battling depression
The tennis ace was dropped by an Australian tennis development scheme in 2004 as she was seen to be lacking talent and potential
A young Johanna with her grandma
Sister Eva and partner, mum Gabriella, dad Gabor, Jo’s then boyfriend Kether and Jo
Soon after, the Kontas moved to Europe, with Johanna training at the acclaimed Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona, before settling in England.
After becoming a UK citizen in 2012, she said: “It made me feel more settled. I wanted GBR next to my name for a very long time.”
Jo was home-schooled so she could remain focused on her game.
Weybridge Tennis Academy coach Justin Sherring, who taught Johanna for two years at the Surrey-based club from 2010, spoke of her commitment, saying: “We spent two sessions a day outside because we could not get an indoor court. It was minus five degrees.
“We had six layers on and we were out practising hard. That showed her dedication. She was really exciting, very energetic, very bubbly, very vivacious.”
Justin immediately realised he had a special talent on his hands.
He said: “I remember saying to her dad that she was top 20 material. She just had to believe it.”
Johanna also spent a year at the Sutton Tennis Academy in Surrey but the experience ended with academy founder Keith Sohl having to pursue her parents in court for up to £4,000 in unpaid fees.
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But Keith bears no hard feelings towards the family, saying: “The parents came to us with the hope of having a sponsor, so we continued to train her, although money was owed. It was resolved and, unfortunately, these things happen.
“I don’t blame Jo at all. She was very pleasant and easy to get on with. Everyone liked her.”
She soon started competing for Great Britain and in 2014 switched her training base to Gijon in Spain — although home is a London apartment with a view of the Thames which she bought herself.
Father Gabor, front left, sits alongside Jackson Ward, analyst Adam Snook and coach Dimitri Zavialoff. Agents Joseph Cohen and Lawrence Frankopan sit in the rear
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