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Johanna Konta's rise as she bids to make history at French Open
British No 1 aims for maiden Grand Slam glory at the French Open. Can she do it?
Last Updated: 06/06/19 11:02am
It's been a spectacular rise to stardom for Johanna Konta, who is on the verge of making more Grand Slam history as she aims to become the first British winner at Roland Garros since Sue Barker 43 years ago.
The 28-year-old's run to the semi-finals of the French Open represents a return to top form after a difficult period results-wise.
She showed hitherto unseen prowess on clay to reach the final of the big WTA event in Rome before arriving in the French capital where she has grown in confidence and is now playing arguably the tennis of her life.
If she can beat Czech 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova on Friday, she would go one better than Jo Durie and become the first woman from these shores to reach the final since Sue Barker, who won the title in 1976.
Konta has been on a rollercoaster ride over the past four years, which has seen her climb the rankings up from 146th in the standings to world No 4.
She was born in Sydney, Australia to Hungarian parents. Her dad is a hotelier and her mum a dentist. She speaks both English and Hungarian with a slither of an Aussie accent.
Konta moved to England and based herself in Eastbourne in 2005, aged 14. She qualified as a British citizen in May 2012 and soon started competing for Great Britain. In 2014, she switched her training base to Gijon, Spain where she started working with Spanish coaches Esteban Carril and Jose-Manuel Garcia.
Her first Wimbledon appearance came courtesy of a wild card in 2012 and she showed her propensity for being able to go the distance in matches, eventually losing 10-8 to Christina McHale in a deciding set in the first round.
Fast forward three years and a 16-match unbeaten run in August 2015 took in two second-tier titles and a run to the fourth round of the US Open as a qualifier - ranked 97 in the world - she knocked out seeded pair Garbine Muguruza and Andrea Petkovic before losing out to two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
Then came a big Grand Slam breakthrough as Konta became the first British woman for 33 years to reach a major semi-final when she made the last four at the Australian Open, replicating Durie's run at the 1983 US Open.
She claimed her first WTA Tour title at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford thanks to a famous victory over the legendary Venus Williams.
Although she bowed out in the last 16 of the US Open in 2016, Konta narrowly missed out on the year-end WTA Championships, but began 2017 by winning the WTA Apia International in Sydney, proving to her rivals that she was a genuine title contender.
The biggest title of Konta's career to date came at the Premier Mandatory Miami Open which spurred her on to become the first British woman to make the Wimbledon semi-finals since Virginia Wade later that summer.
Resilience and the ability to close out matches under pressure was once a regular weakness in Konta's game, but her transformation was aided by the help of Juan Coto, her former 'mental coach', whom she had been working with since October 2014, until the news of his sudden death late in 2017.
The Eastbourne-based player sprung a major surprise by splitting with Spanish coach Carril and then brought in one of the women's tour's most experienced coaches in Wim Fissette at the start of 2018.
But her form plummeted as she lost her first five matches of the season and was then surprisingly beaten in the second round of the Australian Open by Bernarda Pera. An early loss to Dominika Cibulkova at Wimbledon put pay to her short partnership with the Belgian.
After linking up with French coach Dimitri Zavialoff in October, Konta enjoyed one of her best weeks of the year in Moscow, making the semi-finals, and despite going out in the second round of the Australian Open to Garbine Muguruza she rediscovered her best form.
Konta helped Great Britain reach the Fed Cup World Group for the first time in 26 years before reaching her first clay-court final at the WTA tournament in Rabat. Another run to the final in Rome put her in good stead ahead of the French Open where she has excelled.
She is now on the cusp of something truly special. A place in the final of the French Open up for grabs. Can Konta make more history?
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