DICKSON: Konta banked £294,000... tough questions are part of the deal

Jo Konta left Wimbledon
on Tuesday night bitterly disappointed with her pride hurt, a Grand Slam semi-final appearance spurned.
She also walked away with a cheque for £294,000 in her pocket as recompense for making the last eight, and good luck to her.
Yet she - and some other players, too, not just in tennis - have to remember that these kind of rewards come at the price of being scrutinised by the media. It is part of the whole transaction that modern professional sport has become.
So when a hard line of questioning comes in, as it did in the wake of her defeat to Barbora Strycova, it is something that comes with the territory.
Those of us who travel with Konta and have reported on her admirable, largely unforeseen ascent from British also-ran to Major contender have become used to her tendency towards prickliness in press conferences when challenged.
Last year at the French Open, amid the pain of a fourth straight first round defeat, she employed an extended analogy which included a reference to us as 'bastards'. No offence was taken, it made for a refreshing change and showed her genuine feelings at the time.
From my experience she is, in all other instances, personable and well-mannered, intelligent with an unusually good command of the English language for an athlete.
But even at this advanced stage of her career she does tend to view questions in a formal setting in the same way a Wimbledon security guard might look at an unattended suspect package lodged under a Centre Court seat.
Former British No 1 Annabel Croft was among those discussing Konta's caustic exchange with a British journalist, who she accused of patronising her when asking if she could have coped with the big points better against Strycova.
Croft cited Roger Federer as an example to follow, in the way he has long worked out as using the media as a 'bridge to his fans'. 
'With Konta she utterly refuses to have anything negative thrown at her and sometimes you do have to take that criticism and be honest,' continued Croft to the BBC.
There is definitely something in this, although it should be said that even his Rogerness - master communicator though he is - is perfectly capable of being sour in defeat.
Probably the person she needs to look more realistically at is Andy Murray, another with whom we have been on a long journey.
Murray could be so surly and suspicious in his younger days that he published an ill-advised autobiography aged 21 entitled 'Hitting Back'. At what nobody could be quite sure.
It definitely appeared to help him when he went on to reach a better accommodation with those reporting him. As he relaxed into his higher profile he took a more phlegmatic view of the baggage that comes with fame and success.
Not that it has ever been entirely smooth with the 32-year-old Scot. He has had his share of difficult cross-examinations that have irked him, especially around the period when his hip began to deteriorate.
This is why suggestions that there was an element of sexism around the questioning of Konta are, frankly, nonsense.
They also fail to take into account the fearful stick that someone with a roughly equivalent career, Tim Henman, used to take. Sometimes it was for no other reason than he was not good enough to beat Pete Sampras in semi-finals.
Konta would do well to remember the old saying that newspapers soon enough become fish and chip paper. Certain realities, however, are unlikely to change.
Just as it was for Henman and Murray, it will always be difficult to be a lonely home hope at an event with such huge attention upon it as Wimbledon, where the international competition is so fierce.
Strycova is one of seven Czech women in the top 100, with two in the top ten. Konta is the only Brit in the top 120. Next week some high class British golfers will disappoint at the Open and it will go virtually unnoticed, partly because it is not head-to-head competition, and partly because the success of others from the host nation will be a distraction.
What you can say about the British women's No 1, whose hostilities with the reporter on Tuesday night could be fairly described as a score draw, is that she works incredibly hard. 
She has maxed out her talent, something worthy of respect. If more Brits did the same she would not be quite as isolated near the top.
This weekend she is expected to be a guest at the British Grand Prix. As a very good, rather than a great tennis player this was always likely to be a free weekend, and perhaps we should have tempered our expectations accordingly.

No comments found