sports gazette

The Rise of Johanna Konta

Published: 9 Oct 2016

How the British number one has risen to a top ten ranking, with help from Google Trends

A year ago if you were to ask any tennis fan who Johanna Konta was, the likelihood that someone would know was pretty low. Yet now, she is the first British woman to be ranked inside the top ten for 32 years.

Despite Konta losing in the final of the China Open to world number three Agnieszka Radwanska, her victory over Madison Keys in the semi-finals not only secured her a place in the final but a top ten ranking and a place in British history.

Konta has jumped 294 places in the last five years and even as recently as June 2015 was still ranked 146th in the world. Here on Google Trends it is clear to see that interest in Konta has risen dramatically over the past three years.

The peak that can be seen was her performance at the Australian Open in January 2016 when she reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time. Since then there have been an increase in how much she is trending in the UK as her performances  have got increasingly better.

Konta puts this performance surge down to her sport psychologist, Juan Coto, who has revitalised Konta’s game both physically and mentally. Their aim before each match is to maintain a ‘calm neutrality.' Konta’s intent is to not submit to the excessive emotion involved in winning or losing.

Achieving this level of self awareness and understanding is an admirable feat, especially when compared to the impassioned out bursts of other top tennis players such as John McEnroe, Viktor Triocki and Nick Kyrios to name but a few. Yet this hasn’t always been the way for Konta.

Before the instatement of Coto, she had been known to cry on court if things weren’t going her way. Many times we have seen a player’s game dramatically change for the worse after one controversial point and Konta was no exception in succumbing to this downfall.

Konta “now work[s] differently." she tries to relax and has many tried and tested techniques to keep her calm and focussed during the match. Breathing techniques, visualisation, trigger words. They all work apparently. It’s quite difficult to accredit such subjective entities to the massive improvement that has been seen in Konta’s performance but tennis is a very psychological game.

Konta isn’t the only player to seek something more than physical training in order to overcome adversity in a match. Novak Djokovic credits doing 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation every day as a way of’ ‘paying attention to your experience as it happens without judgement’.

Djokovic says in his autobiography ‘Serve to Win’ that he considers embracing psychological support to improve your game is as just as important as the physical training.

The benefits of ‘supporting the mind’ of the athlete, is now well backed by significant research across many sports, and there is no denying that Djokovic has been dominant in tennis for the last 5 years, with mindfulness psychology clearly being part of his success.

If Djokovic has achieved so much off the back of psychology, then it helps to identify and support the reasons for the rise of Konta through the rankings in the last 18 months. If this is just the beginning of her ascent, then we can expect even greater things to come.

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