Wimbledon: Unloved Jo Konta is upbeat and offers a credible threat

Australian Open semi-finalist shows fighting spirit on show court despite home crowd ambivalence

For a long stretch into the London evening it looked like nothing much would be played. But there was one local story they wanted to continue on an outside court.

It involved the British number one Jo Konta, who came from Australia and has Hungarian roots. Those few background details prompted one British paper to discuss why she may not be loved by the home crowd. "Can Konta be a true loved Brit?" asked the Daily Mail. "British though?" asked the paper. "She came here from Australia where she was born to Hungarian parents."

The article then went into a mode of love bombing the 25-year-old alternating with questioning whether she was viable enough to be brought to the bosom of the people. But the point was well made. Konta is just not as British as Andy Murray and that's a decent reason to ask the question. But breath easily. "She is now a British citizen, articulate and well mannered," the Mail told us. Hooray for that.

She did play in Wimbledon as a junior, which seems a long enough time ago to become loved by a home crowd that appears to love everybody. And so, the unloved Konta continued her overnight match against Puerto Rico's Monica Puig leading 6-1, 2-1.

Seeded 16th for Wimbledon, Konta is here as a top 20 player and one who made it to the semi-finals of the Australian Open earlier this year. She can be seen as a credible threat to the rest of the field.

Her star has risen steeply in the past six months, following up her Melbourne semi-final by reaching the last four at her home tournament in Eastbourne prior to Wimbledon. In four previous visits to SW19, she has never gotten past the first round, so the win over Puig represents progress on the grass. Her ranking leapt from 150 in 2014 to 47 last year and it now sits at 19 in the world. But her resumption of the match against the Puerto Rican didn’t reflect that improvement and after the tidy 6-1 first set Puig set about making life difficult.


But the athletic Konta is a fighter and in the cold breezy evening, she dusted herself down and prised out the second set 7-5 and a place in the second round.

“I’m most very happy with it (performance). It was quite gusty out there, we had been waiting around for quite some time,” said Konta. “I was happy with how I was able to get myself into the match. It’s not easy when it’s not from the beginning. You have to really have to rush out of the blocks.”

Bearing in mind you’re British number one, seeded, Australian Open semi-finalist, you were on a show court, yesterday and today, it was only two thirds full. In a way, do you feel you’re going under the radar, Konta was asked. “Was it really not that full yesterday,” she replied. Two thirds she was told. “That’s pretty good. It’s not like it’s empty. Are we going to look at it as the glass is half full or empty?” A fighter.

Former winner Petra Kvitova had a speedy 6-0 first set over Romanian Sorana Cirstea. The twice champion took 15 minutes to wrap up the first set before Cirstea dug in. Still the 10th seed brought it home in under an hour, winning the second set 6-4.

Play was abandoned on all outside courts at 7.36pm.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times