The clay-court travails of Johanna Konta can be forgotten, until next year at least. Swinging freely on a surface she is far happier with, Konta swept past Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova on Saturday to reach her first WTA grass-court final.
Having played superbly over the first three months of the year, Konta lost all momentum through a sequence of four defeats in six matches during the European clay-court swing. The dip was disappointing, but not wholly surprising, given that she has yet to master the sliding movement that is so crucial to the surface.
While Konta has also struggled at Wimbledon, the WTA event at Eastbourne – where she has lived for most of the past decade – has been a different story, with runs to the semi-final last year and the quarter-final the previous season. This is the form that Konta has replicated over the past week, on her first visit to Nottingham. She plans to play all three grass-court build-ups before Wimbledon, and the only concern must be that she doesn’t overtax herself.
In London, meanwhile, the world’s most volatile and talented young player Nick Kyrgios was on hand on Saturday for the Queen’s Club draw. The ceremony yielded an intriguing first round for top seed and defending champion Andy Murray, who will play Slovenian-born Briton Aljaz Bedene on Tuesday.
In Paris last month, Bedene caused some consternation when he hinted that he might be considering a reversion to his original nationality, in order to earn a chance at playing in the Tokyo Olympics. A day later, he tried to withdraw the idea, yet stopped short of ruling it out completely.
As for Kyrgios, he said that he had recovered from the low spirits that had affected him through the clay-court swing, partly as a result of the loss of his beloved grandfather Christos. “It was tough after my grandpa passed away and for a month afterwards I didn’t want to do anything,” said Kyrgios.
“I flew back home for three days to do the funeral and that wasn’t easy. He didn’t necessarily play a massive role in my tennis but he watched every single one of my matches, even when he was sick. He was probably one of my No 1 fans. I saw him every day when I was back in Australia and during the clay season I wanted to be spending time with my family but it is tough when you are a professional tennis player I guess.”
Asked about his tendency towards homesickness, Kyrgios replied “It still affects me. I feel like when I am in Europe or on clay the homesick just kicks in pretty much instantly. But when I am in London, and I have my mum here and we are living in a house with her cooking for me, I have that home feeling.”