In the final entry of Johanna Konta's exit interview, the former World No.4 reflects on the highs and lows of her career. From rediscovering the joy that would spark her mid-career evolution into the best British woman in 30 years to her philosophical perspective with respect to the overwhelming sacrifice asked of tennis players, Konta looks back on her legacy.
WTA Insider: What do you consider your career highlight or standout memory?
Konta: So many things go into my mind. You know what, actually? This is before I kind of made it on to the main tour. It was 2015 and I was on a trip with one of my coaches at the time, Jose. I was in the U.S. playing the ITF Challengers in Jackson, Pelham and Dothan.
That was in that period where I started really bring on board the work that I was doing with Juan at the time. Before that, I was really struggling to find joy amongst all the stress and the sacrifices that my family made to give me these opportunities. It was a very heavy weight to play with, and we were basically trying to just play because I enjoy to play.
That was the first trip where I felt like those conversations and those exercises and everything we were doing, I started putting into practice a little bit. I just remember playing that trip with a lot of joy and gratefulness and, honestly, it was like a breath of fresh air. It was like I was coming up for air and it felt liberating and just really joyful.
Just being grateful from the fact that the sun was shining, or I got to go to Barnes and Noble, or I got to go to Whole Foods, things like that. In Jackson, we stayed with a really wonderful family. A lady had this beautiful house, and I just felt very grateful that I got to stay in this beautiful house with this really kind woman who just opened up her home and just let me and my coach stay there.
In Pelham, I stayed with a host family, who I stayed with for years before because obviously I played a majority of my career on the U.S. challenger circuit. So I stayed with that family for years and years, and I really loved that family. They were just so kind and again opened up their home and literally treated you like you were just a part of the family. I was so grateful.
So for me, as a whole in my career, that was the first time where I really felt like, "Oh, actually, I really love playing tennis." I hadn't felt that for a long time before then, since I was a young child.
WTA Insider: What about on court, results-wise?
Konta: I think winning Nottingham this year meant a lot. I tried winning it twice before [laughs] Maybe because of the headspace that I was in, to be fair, things will look a little bit differently.
My favorite year on tour was 2019. I just loved the people that I had around me with Dmitri [Zavialoff] and Dan [Smethurst] and Gill [Myburgh], and obviously [boyfriend] Jackson. I loved working with Dimitri, I loved working with Dimitri and Dan together. And I just love the work we were doing, and so I just again after a difficult end of 2017 and then trying to find my way in 2018, it felt like I just had this hunger to learn again and this joy in learning. And so I think that whole year, I really, really loved that year.
WTA Insider: And your toughest moment?
Konta: Probably one of them has been this past year in giving myself that space to make a life-changing decision, I think has been probably one of the toughest. But then, I mean, how long do you have?
There's so many things that have been difficult in my life, which I haven't shared and I don't talk about because, quite frankly, I don't want to. There's no need for me to. And in tennis, there's been some.
But you know, I'd say probably the toughest part of my life and my career has been more personal. I think that has been a consistent difficulty throughout my career at different parts, different times. And I think probably one of the things I'm most proud of is staying playing in spite of everything going on. So I think that's probably one of my biggest achievements for me.
It's also interesting when you add up the good things that have happened versus the difficult things, I think there will be very few players that would say that that basket with the good things is more full than the one with the bad things. Because I think when you think of everything you're putting in to make it, to achieve certain things, everything you have to do to get that one thing, it's just multiplied. So I'd say the difficulty basket is a lot heavier than the achievement basket.
WTA Insider: Now that you're closing this chapter of your professional tennis career, what would you tell your teenage self, the one who was toiling away, unsure if any of this would actually happen for her?
Konta: I would actually say nothing because I'm a firm believer that things happen the way they do for a reason. Not saying that I wish certain things didn't turn out differently. Obviously, I wish certain things happened differently. But I wouldn't change anything because there's a reason why my life has turned out the way it has. It has made me into the person that I am today.
If I were to go back and tell my younger self something, I might not be who I am today, and I'm very proud of who I am today. I feel very happy with how I am today. So I definitely wouldn't want to interrupt that in any way.
WTA Insider: When it comes to leaving your stamp on the game, what would you consider your legacy?
Konta: I'd like to consider myself part of the movement for the mental side of the game. Back in 2015 and 2016 when I broke through, there was a lot of talk about that and I gave a lot of time for that. I was very vocal about that and how it impacted me. So I feel like I share in that legacy with a lot of other players.
I'm a poster child for people who ever feel too old to make it in anything.
I'm a poster child for people who have been told they're nothing special or not that good or that their time is gone or they don't show that much promise.
I'm a poster child for those players and those people who just base their career on resilience and on hard work. There's talent there, but not everyone wants to see it. Because I had talent. There's a lot of things that I did very well. But you needed to give it a chance to also see it. It's not your normal-looking type of talent or what people look for, necessarily. So I definitely think I share in that legacy of, you're not too old, you're not too untalented.
I also would like to think that people remember me on tour as happy, pretty much always smiling and polite and kind. I really always tried to be that, to respect people, be kind, and generally be happy.