Johanna Konta makes name for herself at Australian Open
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Meet the female Jason Bourne.
Not that she's a spy, or a fictitious character of any kind, but Johanna Konta does have a multiple identity and a few passports. The 24-year-old tennis player who was born in Australia to Hungarian parents and moved to England as a teen, however, considers herself fully British.
And she has the self-deprecating humor to prove it.
''I'm pretty much the female version of Jason Bourne,'' Konta said Wednesday, making a rare analogy to ''The Bourne Identity'' at an Australian Open news conference, where she has spent the past two weeks increasing her profile in the tennis world. The rising star holds all three passports, she explained, but only one country is home. ''I definitely belong to Great Britain.''
And, Great Britain thanks her for that.
Konta on Wednesday became the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal in 32 years, since Jo Durie did it at the 1983 U.S. Open. She joins Andy Murray, a two-time Grand Slam champion, in the semis, giving Britain a man and a woman into the singles semifinals at the same major for the first time since 1977.
Murray said he was ''very excited to have a British woman in the latter stage of a slam. That's not happened for a long, long time.'' He called Konta's strong run at the Australian Open ''unbelievable.''
Konta is playing in her very first Australian Open, after losing in qualifying rounds three years in a row.
She announced her arrival to the main draw by staging a first-round upset over No. 8 Venus Williams and beat No. 21 Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets in the fourth round.
On Wednesday, Konta beat Zhang Shuai of China, 6-4, 6-1 in a quarterfinal that offered two compelling story lines. The 27-year-old Zhang entered the Australian Open with a 0-14 record in Grand Slam matches, and was considering retirement. She brought her parents to Melbourne thinking it might be her last tournament, and they watched as she upset No. 2 Simona Halep in the first-round and continued into the second week.
When Konta beat her Wednesday - after a match point decided by a net cord - she walked up to the net and gave Zhang a good, long hug.
''I think what she has achieved is incredibly special. That's what I told her at the end of the match,'' said Konta, who is ranked 47th.
She has won fans at Melbourne Park with her athleticism and mental composure on the court and good-humor and a polite humility in interviews after winning.
Asked about her parents reaction back home, Konta apologized for making them stay up so late.
''I'm pretty sure they have jet lag because of the time difference. They've been staying up all ridiculous times of the morning,'' Konta said during her on-court TV interview Wednesday. ''I'm sure they're looking forward for me to go home so they can sleep properly.''
Her interviewer then poked fun at the ''unique'' way she bounces the ball before serving, keeping her arm raised high at shoulder level.
Konta laughed, along with the crowd at Rod Laver Arena, saying until recently nobody had noticed.
''I actually did see myself serve (recently) and I'm like, `Ohhh, that looks really awkward,''' she laughed. ''It's just the way it is and it feels really natural. Sorry if you guys think it's bad.''
In Thursday's semifinals, she faces No. 7 Angelique Kerber, another determined player who beat two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals. No. 1 Serena Williams is in the semifinals on the other half of the draw.
Konta has been reminded in her post-match encounters with the British media that there's quite a bit of excitement back home. Does she feel the pressure?
''No,'' she replied. ''But the UK is a number of thousands of miles away, and a completely different time zone. Which in this case is quite nice.''