Johanna Konta the model of consistency as she progresses to the semi-finals of the Miami Open

Luke Brown
The Independent
Konta is the first British woman to reach the Miami Open semi-finals: Getty
Konta is the first British woman to reach the Miami Open semi-finals: Getty

On first impression, Johanna Konta’s short media appearance on Wednesday night after beating third-seed Simona Halep was quite unlike the thrilling three-set match itself: entirely unremarkable.

“I just stayed very present and fought very hard for every point,” the level-headed Konta smiled, just minutes after becoming the first British women to qualify for the semi-finals of the Miami Open.

“I am just happy to still be part of the event and I know that when I play next it will be a tough game. I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”

Konta fought back after Halep served for the match in Miami (Getty)
Konta fought back after Halep served for the match in Miami (Getty)

Of more interest than her actual comments was rather the startling consistency of them. Two years ago, Konta burst onto the scene with an impressive run at the Eastbourne International, handing bloody noses to players ranked No 34, No 8 and No 20 in the world, only a couple of weeks before Wimbledon. Fans were understandably excited.

But Konta remained impassive throughout, her short press appearances in a portakabin tucked away at the back of the Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club remarkably similar to the cool conferences she holds now.

“I did well to stay in the present and push my level to be with hers,” Konta said after a particularly impressive win over Garbiñe Muguruza, in comments almost identical to those she made in Miami this week.

“I feel very fortunate and happy to still be here and I know the next match will be difficult but all I can do is my best. I’m sure it will be special.”

Konta's fine run began at Eastbourne back in 2015 (Getty)
Konta's fine run began at Eastbourne back in 2015 (Getty)

Both off the court and on it – “I can't remember playing someone like this on that level, that consistent for the whole match,” a disbelieving Agnieszka Radwanska said at the start of this year after being swotted aside in straight sets in the final of the Sydney International – Konta is a model of consistency. That is to her credit.

When it comes to the success of British Tennis over the last two years, Konta is very much the yin to Andy Murray’s yang. For while Murray rarely finds himself out of the headlines, on account of both his brilliantly tempestuous performances on the court and his witheringly frank comments off it, Konta goes about her business in a far more understated style.

The 25-year-old prides herself on remaining utterly impassive on court, seems utterly unfazed by pressure on any level and can often be heard answering journalists’ questions by enthusiastically discussing her “process”.

British number one Konta is into the semi-finals of the Miami Open (Getty)
British number one Konta is into the semi-finals of the Miami Open (Getty)

She has worked extensively on the mental side of her game and credits replacing a previously ‘highly-strung demeanour’ with a newly sanguine approach as the biggest reason behind her seemingly rapid ascension to one of the world’s best players.

That her success has continued into the new season despite two apparent setbacks in December last year – one surprising in nature, one utterly tragic – is further testament to her strength of will. First she surprisingly parted company with her coach Esteban Carril; a month later, her sports psychologist Juan Coto – so essential to her improvement – died suddenly, aged just 47.

As far as her tennis goes, Konta appears to have recovered from this dismal end to the year. She made it to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January, her second best performance at a Grand Slam, and is currently playing some fine tennis in Miami, after an especially busy couple of months.

Indeed, while any young British player would do well to slump in front of a television with a large collection of Murray videotapes, closely studying the Scot’s imperious technique and shot-selection, Konta surely sets the far better example when it comes to the mental side of the sport.

Hers is also an approach that the likes of Heather Watson and Laura Robson would do well to follow. Watson, the British number two, is undoubtedly talented but has a frustrating tendency to become embroiled in gruelling three-setters; she struggles to close matches out in a similar fashion to the younger Konta.

Robson meanwhile has struggled desperately in her attempt to reclaim the world-class ranking that a wrist injury cruelly deprived her of. It therefore came as no real surprise when the 23-year-old said she was turning to sports psychology in the wake of a disappointing straight sets loss in the first round of qualifying for this year’s Australian Open.

“I have started working with a really good guy but it’s not an overnight change,” Robson acknowledged at the time. “I wish there was a switch that could just be flicked but it’s not just going to happen overnight.”

Robson is taking a leaf out of Konta's book when it comes to sports psychology (Getty)
Robson is taking a leaf out of Konta's book when it comes to sports psychology (Getty)

The pair will join up with Konta when the Great British Fed Cup travel to Constanța to play Romania in the World Group II Play-offs, by which point there is a very real chance Konta will have added the Miami Open to her Sydney International success from earlier this season.

Predictably, Konta remains as business-like as ever about her chances in Key Biscayne, simply commenting “I am looking forward to the next round and I know that it is going to be a tough one,” when asked about her chances against Venus Williams in tomorrow’s semi-final. Either Caroline Wozniacki or Karolína Plíšková waits in the final.

But, win or lose, Konta isn’t going anywhere soon, having firmly established herself as one of the finest players on the WTA Tour. The model of consistency, this season promises great things indeed.

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