Johanna Konta allays injury fears: ‘I never was thinking that I wasn’t going to play Wimbledon’
British number one Johanna Konta plays down injury fears ahead of Wimbledon
Just as British hopes had been put on ice by Andy Murray when he pulled out of his two scheduled Wimbledon warm-up matches at Hurlingham—he had picked up a hip problem—so too did British hopes go on hold after an accident at the Aegon International Premier tournament in Eastbourne last week involving Johanna Konta.
The build-up to her quarter-final match against world No1 Angelique Kerber had been far from easy: rain at the start of the tournament meant that both women had to play their third-round matches and quarters on the same day.
Konta came through a tough three-setter against French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko before taking on Kerber, but with the first set under her belt and the match on her racket, Konta suffered a heavy fall on the evening’s sappy grass, landing on her back and whipping her head back onto the ground.
It was dramatic, but after a delay and a consultation with on-site medics, she completed the match—all two points—to advance to the semis.
She said afterwards:
“I’m feeling actually not too bad. I got checked out and I’ve got no signs of concussion. That’s the most important thing. Just got a bit of a sore head. I’m sure I’ll pull up well tomorrow.”
However, Konta was forced to withdraw from the scheduled semi against world No3 Karolina Pliskova, citing a back problem. Would she, then, be fit to take up her place at Wimbledon?
It was the first thing that the assembled media wanted to know come Sunday.
“I never was thinking that I wasn’t going to [play]. I’m definitely recovering really well. I practised today. I felt good. I’m definitely looking forward to playing my first round. Like Andy, I’d like to think that I’m fit enough to play seven matches, but I’m going to be taking it one at a time.”
She went on:
“It was most important to just make sure that I was well enough through the chain [of my thoracic spine] and my body. Definitely it was medically the right decision to not continue playing in Eastbourne, to give my body that chance to recover. It was a bit of a traumatic fall. But it’s been going well. Again, I hit today, felt pretty good out there.”
Konta’s build-up to Wimbledon this year, as it has been in the last couple of seasons, has been very positive. Before heading to the semis in her home town of Eastbourne, the Briton had already made the final in Nottingham. But such good preparation has yet to yield the kind of results she might expect when it comes to the ‘big one’.
At the All England Club this year, though, she will hope to make her first big breakthrough, having already done so at the Australian Open—with semi- and a quarter-final runs—and to a lesser extent at the US Open, where she has made the fourth round for the last two years. At Wimbledon, thus far, she has won just a single match in five main-draw appearances—last year.
Clearly it is not that her big game does not suit the grass, as her Eastbourne results have proved. Her form over the last 12 months has also affirmed her as a real contender: All five of Konta’s finals have come in the last 12 months. The first yielded the Stanford title last summer, and she went on to reach the final of the prestigious Beijing Premier Mandatory last autumn. This year began with the Sydney title, before she bagged her biggest prize, the Premier Mandatory trophy in Miami.
She struggled with form through the entire two month-clay swing, winning just two matches from Stuttgart to the French Open, but she has always felt at home on the turf.
Her draw is tricky, however, with a real sense of dejà vu. Her opener is against Su-Wei Hsieh, who beat her in the first round of Roland Garros—and incidentally in their only previous grass meeting, in Eastbourne in 2013—while her second could bring her face to face with Donna Vekic, who beat her in the final of Nottingham last month in a closely-contested three-setter.
Round 4 could bring two-time former Wimbledon champion, the returning Petra Kvitova, with the aspiring No1 Simona Halep in the quarters.
Konta said of her opener: “Well, I know [Su-Wei] does enjoy the grass. She’s a Wimbledon champion in doubles here on the grass, so she definitely can play on this surface. Actually, the first time I played her, I lost to her on the grass. I’m definitely going into the match knowing that she will be playing very comfortably on the surface: She will definitely look to make things difficult for me.”
The match gets under way tomorrow on Court 1 after the oldest woman in the draw, Venus Williams, begins her campaign for a sixth title.
Also tomorrow, Heather Watson closes play on Court 2, Laura Robson opens on Court 18, and Naomi Broady plays on Court 14.