By Simon Evans
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Johanna Konta showed the value of all her sports psychology work as she took intense pressure of a home Centre Court in her stride to beat Croatia’s Donna Vekic at Wimbledon on Wednesday.
Konta has never previously reached the third round at the All England Club but having established herself in the world’s top 10, expectations have risen and a partisan crowd added to the sense of this being a key match for the 26-year-old.
There are times when Konta, with her repeated talk of “process” and “bubbles” can sound like she is reciting a text from a self-help book.
But there is no doubt, after a tense, hard-fought three-set win lasting over three hours that years of attention to the mental side of sport have given her the focus and steel needed to cope with the big occasion.
“You guys keep talking about this pressure, and I guess I keep sounding like a broken record, but for me, pressure is a very self-imposed thing,” she told reporters.
“I’m approaching this event like I am every other event. I’m coming here to do the best that I can, to compete the best I can. I think I showed that today.”
For years Konta worked with the late London-based Spanish mind guru Juan Coto, who died last year and was seen as a key influence on her development.
The momentum shifted throughout the 7-6(4) 4-6 10-8 contest, which Konta described as “one of the most epic matches I have been a part of”.
But she evidently did not let emotions take control.
“Quite honestly, I really just tried to see the constructive and the positive things that I was doing and also accept the good things that she was doing, because she was doing very, very many good things.
“I feel I competed well. I feel that even when the momentum shifted slightly to her side of the court, I still was competitive, and I still felt I kept my mind quite light and just really tried to, yeah, keep going,” she said.
A “light mind” is another of those phrases that probably originates in mental training and she offered an explanation for it.
“Personally, I look to just keep a good perspective. Appreciate the level that my opponent was playing. Acknowledge that some of the things weren’t completely under my control. I think that also reinforced for me the good things I was doing and trusting in those things.
“That just keeps my mindset quite clear, and in turn light, or that’s kind of how I describe it.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)