Week 119 (23 - 29 January 2016)
This week Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam semi-final in 33 years. Inevitably, her remarkable transformation in tennis fortunes at this year's Australian Open will mean a significant change in life away from the court in the form of new-found media attention. But so far Konta is responding to everyone wanting a piece of her with the same level of confidence and composure she displays on the court.
The unseeded 24-year-old has come from relative obscurity to reach this high point in her career. Her good run in Melbourne started in spectacular fashion when she defeated seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams – dropping just six games during a 79-minute masterclass – and ended with her making British tennis history. In the eyes of the success-hungry British tennis public, such an arrival makes you hot property.
But her extraordinary rise is matched by a serene off court personality. Throughout the tournament she has responded to media attention with eloquence and charisma, explaining in a particularly memorable interview that she will "go back, keep working hard, keep improving the things that I want to improve and keep enjoying what I'm doing."
Konta's straightforward rhetoric shows a commendable grasp of how to communicate through the media. Through repetition she reiterates her persistence – the sub message being that defeat will drive, rather than deter, her.
After her defeat to Angelique Kerber in the semi-final, Konta said: "I don't look to be a part of any group, I just look to be the best I can be. Like I keep saying, I don't look at myself in the mirror and say, 'you're number this in the world'. That's not how I view my career and my life."
Konta's words express a valuable message that is brilliant in its universality; often what is most rewarding is not being the greatest in relation to other people, but instead striving for a deeply personal sense of achievement. It is clear that, for Konta, her semi-final loss is not a missed opportunity but one which can drive further improvement – improvement that will no doubt see this straight talker in the public eye for a while to come.
Photo: Sussex Express