01 December 2021

Johanna Konta hopes her achievements will inspire others to fulfil their dreams

01 December 2021

Johanna Konta has hung up her racket with gratitude and pride and hopes she will provide hope to others that they can achieve their dreams.

Rumours had been growing that the 30-year-old was preparing to announce her retirement and that came on social media with a post headed ‘Grateful’.

“All the evidence pointed towards me not ‘making’ it in this profession,” Konta wrote. “However my luck materialised in the people that came into my life and impacted my existence in ways that transcended tennis.

“Through my own resilience and through the guidance of others, I got to live my dreams. I got to become what I wanted and said as a child.”

Born in Australia to Hungarian parents, Konta was not marked out as a talent destined for stardom.

She moved to Europe to pursue her tennis career as a teenager, settling with her family in Eastbourne and becoming a British citizen in 2012.

She did not establish herself in the top 100 until the age of 24 and then surged unexpectedly to the top of the game, reaching grand slam semi-finals at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, winning the Miami Open and peaking at world number four in 2017.

Although her feats have been overshadowed by Emma Raducanu’s remarkable US Open success, Konta put British women’s tennis back on the global stage, hitting heights not achieved since Jo Durie in the 1980s.

“I’m so grateful for my whole career,” said Konta. “It was not straightforward, it was not simple, it was not written in the stars. It was earned and it was hard fought for.

“I’d love to have been top 100 at 16, to have had over a decade on the WTA Tour, but I didn’t. But I got to have a career and I could just as easily not gotten to have had a career.

“I am incredibly proud because it was something I carved out for myself and I did through resilience and hard work and dedication and passion and joy for the sport.

“I believed that I was capable to become one of the best players in the world and I stayed very true to that belief. I wouldn’t have made it if I had not. I did not lose hope or dedication in putting the work in to make it happen.

“I believed every single day that it was going to happen for me and, if I didn’t, I was going to be OK with it and I count myself incredibly lucky that it did happen for me.

“If I can give any hope or any motivation or inspiration to anyone who’s ever felt like they were either too old or not talented enough or overlooked, I think I would feel very happy with that.”

Konta has struggled with a knee injury for the past two years and had slipped to 113th in the rankings, with abdominal and groin problems also hampering her this season as well as an untimely brush with Covid that ruled her out of Wimbledon and the Olympics.

But it was Konta’s mind more than her body that prompted her decision, with the 30-year-old saying: “It was nothing to do with injuries or physical issues, it was just because it felt like the time.

“It just felt like, where I was in my life and what the sport asks of you to do and give to be able to be at the best of it, I couldn’t give that any more.

“I was very conscious that I definitely didn’t want to make a decision based on how I was feeling at any particular moment just because it’s a lot more complex than that.

“There’s a lot of highs and a lot of lows, a lot of different emotions, so, for me, it was important to give myself the space and the time to let emotions settle. I felt like I would just know when I was ready.

Anne Keothavong cheers on Johanna Konta during a Billie Jean King Cup tie (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Archive)

“As a child you start the sport because you love it, you find your passion in this one thing, and what it reaffirmed for me at the end was that I loved it with the same kind of passion. And that’s an almost magical thing.”

Tributes were quick to pour in, with Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Scott Lloyd saying: “On behalf of the LTA and everyone involved in British Tennis, I want to express my appreciation to Johanna for her hugely impressive career.

“To reach the semi-finals of three slams and spend more time as British number one than any other woman since the WTA rankings began shows the level of her achievements. We wish her well in the future and hope that she will continue to play a role in British tennis in the years to come.”

Anne Keothavong was a senior professional when Konta first emerged and has captained the Great Britain Billie Jean King Cup team since 2017.

She told the PA news agency: “Jo’s someone who maximised everything she had and throughout her career was able to lead by example with her professionalism.

“I think she’s a great example that, if you’re able to really put your mind to it and put things in place, anything really is possible.

“I practised with her a lot in her teenage years and early 20s when our careers crossed over. She was always someone who had the potential to be a really good player but I don’t think anyone could have predicted she would go on to achieve what she did.

“It’s finding what’s right for you and being open to different information. In Jo’s case it was being open to the sport psychology part of it, that seemed to really help.”

Konta will shortly marry fiance Jackson Wade and has made no secret of her desire to start a family, something she did not want to do alongside her playing career.

She has already dipped her toe into a media career but will take time before deciding what to do next.

What she will not do, though, is dwell on any of the matches that did not go her way, saying: “I’ve worked very hard at not hanging onto things.

“I’m a firm believer that things happen the way they do for a reason and everything that has happened in my career and in my life up until this point has enabled me to be the person that I am today, and I wouldn’t change that.

“I don’t think I’ll be looking back at any match with any feelings other than joy that I’ve had a wonderful career.”

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