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Konta's hoping to avoid Swift exit as centre stage beckons

By Paul Newman

Jo Konta was expecting to "sleep like a baby" last night and was certainly anticipating a quieter evening than she had enjoyed 24 hours earlier. The British No 2, who faces Maria Sharapova on Centre Court this afternoon in the biggest match of her career, spent Saturday evening at Taylor Swift's concert in Hyde Park.

"I love live music and try to go to as many concerts as I can," Konta said. "Festivals and things like that are something that I really want to do once I retire. While I'm playing it's almost impossible. I'd love to take a year out and do all the festivals. That would be pretty cool.

"I have seen Florence and the Machine live and she is amazing. She is one of those people you just cannot take your eyes off on stage. Just after I got back from the French Open I saw Maroon 5 at Wembley Arena.

"Coldplay are one of my favourite bands. I've been to a Van Morrison concert. I have seen Elton John. I've seen Florence and the Machine, Kings of Leon. My taste in music is very broad."

Today it will be Konta on centre stage. Although the 24-year-old needed a wild card to gain entry to the main draw, her recent performances have more than justified her free passage. The world No 126, who won three matches in qualifying to book her place in the main draw at the French Open last month, has since had three very good weeks on grass.

Konta has won six matches in three grass-court tournaments and enjoyed the best run of her career in the Aegon International at Eastbourne last week, knocking out three top 50 players in Ekaterina Makarova, Garbine Muguruza and Zarina Diyas.

"I take confidence in the level of my competitiveness," Konta said. "I'm just very happy with how I competed with those girls. Those girls are some of the best competitors on the tour, not just some of the best players, so I think I couldn't ask for a better preparation. I've been fortunate enough to get three wild cards into three main draw WTA tournaments, through the LTA, so I'm very grateful for that. I was able to play a lot of good matches leading into this."

Konta admitted she might have some pre-match nerves before her Centre Court debut but insisted: "I'm very much looking forward to the challenge. I'm playing one of the best players in the world on one of the biggest stages. Doesn't matter which court I'm on, Wimbledon itself is a huge stage. So I'm really looking forward to the opportunity and to the challenge."

In contrast to Konta, Sharapova has not played a match on grass in the build-up to Wimbledon, having returned to California following the French Open for medical tests after feeling unwell in Paris. However, Konta does not see Sharapova's lack of matches being a factor.

"I think players such as Sharapova and Williams don't earn their reputations for nothing," she said. "I believe that whenever they step out on the court they are going to be bringing the best version of themselves on the day."

She added: "I am really looking forward to the fact that I get to play Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon. I don't think many people can string those words into the same sentence."

Belfast Telegraph


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