BIRMINGHAM, UK - Despite Johanna Konta's second-round loss to Jelena Ostapenko at the Nature Valley Classic this week, the British No.1 was all smiles as she entered the press conference afterwards.
The reason was in her arms: an adorable dachshund, named Bono after the U2 singer, squirming with friendliness - and an eagerness to roll around on the carpet, a rare treat, revealed Konta, for a dog who lives in a house without carpeted floors.
Throughout a career-best clay season that culminated in a run to the Roland Garros semifinals, the only cloud for Konta had been missing the 10-month-old puppy - and, finally able to bring him to a tournament for the first time, she could not stop beaming. Having Bono around also helps her put the sport in perspective: "I just look at my dog," she replied to a question about preserving her mental health. "You guys saw him. I mean, I think anyone who is struggling, just take a look at that face and you probably will do a little better."
Also on site in Birmingham was Venus Williams' longtime companion, Harold the Havanese - an elder canine statesman compared to Bono at 12 years old who mostly kept himself to himself in the safety of the five-time Wimbledon champion's capacious bag. Williams - who had also been won over by Bono on meeting him for the first time this week - has always known Konta would be a good dog owner.
"She's always been really kind to my dog, always comes over and says hello to Harry," the former World No.1 divulged. "I think she and Harry have their own little relationship. It's pretty cute." Williams can also attest to how, win or lose, a dog is a source of comfort. "My dog actually doesn't like tennis, doesn't like balls," she laughed. "So he really likes me for me!"
All of the canine capers going on had another dog lover, Ashleigh Barty, feeling a bit wistful. The Roland Garros champion was named an ambassador for the RSPCA last year and owns four "mixtures of fluffball breeds": Rudy, Affie, Chino and Maxi.
"When I see all the dogs on tour, I miss my wolf pack a lot," sighed the Australian, for whom quarantine rules and a long journey are an insurmoutable barrier to travelling with them. "I saw Bono yesterday, gave him a quick cuddle. It's just nice, no matter how good or bad a day that you have had, all dogs want is your attention - and it kind of simplifies it a little bit and takes the focus off some things.
"But I think dogs bring happiness to people all over the world, not just tennis players!"