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I've got what it takes to go all the way, vows Konta

 

By Paul Newman

Challenges do not come much greater than a Wimbledon semi-final against a five-time champion, but Johanna Konta insists she is preparing for her Centre Court confrontation with Venus Williams here today in the same way that she would for a match against any other opponent.

"There is no magic potion, I promise you," the 26-year-old Briton said as she looked ahead to her first Wimbledon semi-final.

"I do approach every single opponent the same. I am fully aware that everyone plays well and I always look to prepare the best that I can for the opponent that I have on the day."

Konta, the first British womens' singles player to reach the last four at the All England Club for 39 years, has already played in one Grand Slam semi-final, when she was beaten by Angelique Kerber in straight sets at last year's Australian Open.

At that stage, however, Konta had been playing regularly at the highest level only since the previous autumn. She made her big breakthrough in the summer of 2015, which she started ranked outside the World's top 140.

Asked how much she had improved in the 18 months since she lost that Melbourne semi-final, Konta said: "I don't think I can quantify it, but I like to think that I have improved.

"I like to think that I have become that much more resilient and experienced between that semi-final and now.

"I've been very fortunate with the amount of great matches that I've played and the fact that I've got to play on every single massive stage there is in our sport. I feel very excited by that and I'm hoping to use that experience."

Konta's rapid improvement is reflected in her world ranking. She was World No.47 going into last year's Australian Open, and is now the World No.7, with further progress to follow.

Even if she loses to Williams, Konta will become only the fourth British woman - after Virginia Wade, Sue Barker and Jo Durie - to be ranked in the World's top five since the rankings were launched in 1975.

The biggest change in Konta has been in her mental strength. The Briton used to have a reputation for losing matches from winning positions, but a Spanish mind coach, Juan Coto, helped to transform her mental approach.

Coto died suddenly at the end of last year and she is now working with another mind coach, Elena Sosa.

"They are different people," Konta said when asked about Coto and Sosa.

"However, what's been very beneficial is that she is aware of the work that I've done previously. She's able to continue that but also add new things and add things that will develop. Challenges continue to change so I need to continue to evolve to adapt to the new challenges that are coming my way."

She added: "Juan was a tremendous influence on me. That went beyond my tennis career. He was someone who approached his work with me in a very holistic manner. It was more about me as a human being than necessarily a tennis player.

"I think he did a tremendous job with me in working on my happiness as a person, as a human being, as dealing with life in general. In turn, he looked to help me enjoy something that I've loved since I was a little girl and to try to be the best at that."

Konta and Williams have met five times in the last two years, with the Briton winning on three occasions. Konta won in the first round of the Australian Open last year and in the semi-finals at this year's Miami Open, where the Briton claimed her biggest tournament victory.

"I think we play a very similar style - aggressive, serve well, return well, very solid off the ground," Williams said.

"Really it's just about playing that game better and seeing where you find openings on that day."

Wade, the last British woman to play in the singles semi-finals here (in 1978), and also the last British female singles champion (in 1977), sees Konta as the favourite.

"Venus is not going to want to play a three-hour match," Wade said.

"I think the fatigue factor for Konta might come into play. But I don't think Venus will choke, so I think that Konta will have to win the match."

Williams, aged 37, won the last of her five Wimbledon titles in 2008 but reached the semi-finals here last year, when she lost to Kerber.

In January, Williams played in her first Grand Slam final for eight years when she lost to her sister Serena at the Australian Open.

"I don't think about the definition of age," Williams said. "It's beautiful to be at all ages really. That's my experience so far."

She added: "I feel quite capable, to be honest, and powerful. So whatever age that is, as long as I feel like that then I know that I can contend for titles every time."

Konta said her respect for Williams and her sister Serena had grown over the years.

"I actually have more and more respect for them and more and more awareness for their achievements, and for what they've done for the sport," Konta said.

"It's actually more now that I fully understand the weight of what Venus and her sister have given our sport. I think my appreciation for them gets bigger now."

Konta, who has been taken to deciding sets here this year by Donna Vekic, Caroline Garcia and Simona Halep, said she had dreamed of success at every Grand Slam tournament but added: "I think it makes it more special because it is home.

"I do get that home support, which I don't get anywhere else.

"In that sense, I guess it makes it that much sweeter.

"But more importantly actually, I feel very, very happy and very excited for the battles that I've got to have so far in these Championships.

"I've been involved in some great matches."

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