Britain’s greatest hope for Wimbledon glory believes All England Membership absentee Naomi Osaka deserves admiration for her impression on and off the courtroom this yr.
Johanna Konta beat Osaka thrice earlier than the Japanese participant went on a stratospheric rise, and he or she nonetheless holds that 3-0 report, given the pair have surprisingly gone 4 years with out going through one another on tour.
Whereas Konta will bid to turn out to be a primary British champion within the Wimbledon ladies’s singles since 1977 winner Virginia Wade, famous person Osaka has elected to skip the grand slam which begins subsequent Monday, simply weeks after withdrawing from the French Open.
Osaka is the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion, however she deserted her Roland Garros marketing campaign on Could 31 after a first-round win and revealed a long-endured battle with despair.
She made that announcement a day after the grand slams warned she may very well be thrown out of their tournaments for repeatedly skipping necessary post-match media duties, with Osaka receiving messages of assist from the likes of Serena and Venus Williams and Billie Jean King.
The 23-year-old had already declared she wouldn’t participate in media conferences throughout her keep in Paris for the sake of her psychological well being, questioning the set-up of such interviews and why sporting our bodies insist stars should all the time participate. She confronted criticism from some quarters however has began a wider, helpful dialog about how athletes are handled.
Osaka, who final yr was ranked by Forbes because the highest-paid feminine athlete in world sport, has been a robust and uncompromising voice on race and gender inequality points, with Konta impressed by the impression such a younger participant is having.
“As a tennis participant she’s a four-time grand slam champion already, so she’s an extremely gifted, good tennis participant and he or she is reaching the outcomes that show that as nicely,” stated Konta, a Jaguar ambassador.
“I feel for the sport, she’ll in all probability be round and achieve success for fairly a while to come back.
“She has an enormous ardour for social actions and present social issues and he or she feels empowered through the use of her voice in methods she feels is useful to issues that she believes in and that is her prerogative to take action.
“And I feel that so long as folks keep genuine to themselves and what they consider in, I feel they make the most important optimistic impression they will, and that’s the rule of thumb that she’s following.
“Clearly lots of people will discover quite a lot of solace in somebody as profitable as her speaking about issues that possibly they expertise however do not have the type of social platform or, I suppose, power of voice to have the ability to put it within the public area. Kudos to her for being true to herself.”
Konta’s wins over Osaka got here on the second-round stage of the 2015 US Open, the identical spherical on the 2017 Australia Open, and later in 2017 in Stuttgart.
Their subsequent assembly might come on the Tokyo Olympics, with each planning to participate, Osaka hoping to strike what can be a well-known gold for Japan.
The very best tennis of Konta’s 2021 season thus far noticed her land a grass-court title on the Nottingham Open this month, changing into the primary British lady to win a WTA singles event on dwelling soil since Sue Barker did so on the Daihatsu Problem occasion in Brighton in 1981.
It gave Konta a primary trophy since profitable the Miami Open in 2017 and a fourth profession title, with the previous world quantity 4 hitting her stride in well timed trend forward of a Wimbledon tilt.
For any British participant at Wimbledon, consideration may be intense, however that’s significantly the case for the few who’ve loved success on a scale Konta has skilled, reaching the semi-finals in 2017 and getting by means of to the quarters two years in the past, the final time the event was held.
She has discovered methods to alleviate the strain from her personal perspective, explaining how she took the warmth out of conditions so efficiently in earlier championships.
“Taking part in in 2017 and attending to the semis there, I did not really feel too overwhelmed by consideration,” Konta, 30, stated in an interview with Stats Carry out.
“I feel consideration can solely be too overwhelming when you put your self within the place the place you’re searching for it and acknowledging it.
“For me, I might get up, have breakfast, get in my very own automobile and drive myself to the positioning, heat up and play my match and do the media and all that, then I might get in my automobile and are available dwelling, have dinner, watch a sequence or watch a movie, however I wasn’t spending my time on social media, I wasn’t watching the information, I wasn’t actually doing an excessive amount of.
“The one time I observed that issues have been taking place was once I wanted to pop to the grocery store to get some meals, and all of the newspapers that have been there had my face on them, in order that was an fascinating one.”
:: Johanna Konta is a Jaguar ambassador. Jaguar is the Official Automotive of The Championships, Wimbledon. To find Jaguar’s unmatched experiences go to jaguar.co.uk/Wimbledon