World reacts to Wimbledon furore
JOHANNA Konta split opinion with an abrasive press conference after her Wimbledon loss as the tennis world dissects what went wrong for the British star - and who was at fault in her terse exchange with a reporter.
Konta, seeded 19th, lost in straight sets to the unseeded Barbora Strycova in the quarter-finals to again fall short of the main prize at a major. The 28-year-old has now made the semi-finals of grand slams three times but never advanced to the decider.
Her Wimbledon upset follows a disappointing exit in the French Open semi-finals this year when Konta lost to Marketa Vondrousova - a player she was expected to beat - and the British press wanted answers.
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Konta said she had no regrets about her Wimbledon campaign and paid tribute to her opponent for being too good on the day, but things became heated when she was pressed on whether she needed to take more accountability and acknowledge she didn't play well enough, especially on big points.
The Brit took exception to a male journalist's line of questioning and hit back, saying he was "picking" on her and accusing him of being "patronising" and "disrespectful".
CONTEXT BEHIND ICY EXCHANGE
Konta's response has sparked debate about whether she was right to respond in the way she did or whether the questioning was justified. BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller suggested the questions Konta copped wouldn't have been asked in the same way if Andy Murray was in her position while tennis reporter for The Telegraph Charlie Eccleshare said Konta's rocky history with the British press played its part in the frosty exchange.
"This didn't happen in isolation. It's a consequence of simmering tension that's been there for a long time because on one hand Konta feels the media is out to ... poke at her and prod at her and I think the media feel that Konta gives the same answers after every defeat," Eccleshare said on The Tennis Podcast.
"I don't think Jo Konta gets asked that question in that way were it not for many, many experiences of her saying similar things."
Konta has never enjoyed a rosy relationship with the British media and last year likened them to "bastards" at the French Open.
'OUTRAGEOUS AND DISRESPECTFUL': CRUCIAL POINT TO CONSIDER
BBC tennis commentator David Law said he thought the questions were fair but didn't appreciate their tone while British presenter Catherine Whitaker shared an illuminating insight into why Konta's constant battle with the press runs much deeper than most realise.
Although making it clear she wasn't speaking on Konta's behalf, Whitaker suggested a power and gender divide between the world No. 18 and the journalists she regularly faces in press conferences play a part in the way the two camps interact.
Whitaker said, like many British reporters, she has been left frustrated by Konta in the past, but blasted the way she was questioned as "outrageous and disrespectful".
"I've sat in many a Jo Konta press conference and been immensely frustrated with her answers, without question. I agree with the simmering tension, I agree with the frustration," Whitaker said on The Tennis Podcast. "She very rarely, and I think very consciously, gives quotable, bite-sized nuggets.
"It is completely legitimate and perhaps overdue for her to be probed a bit further.
"However, I think the way it was done was outrageous and disrespectful and really uncomfortable and exposed a situation which is that every time she and any other female player walk into that press conference room they're being grilled by a room full of, mostly, middle-aged white guys, aren't they?
"It is not a diverse room and there is a big power imbalance and you might think gender doesn't come into it - it does. You're sitting in front of a bunch of people that you feel don't necessarily understand you, they're not necessarily on your wavelength.
"It's something that I don't think the majority of that room, it even crosses their mind. I don't think it crossed that journalist's mind, that dynamic, that power dynamic, that gender dynamic and I think it crosses Jo Konta's mind every time she walks into that room.
"It crosses my mind every time I walk into that room and I'm not on the being grilled side of it. I'm on the same side of it all and to be on the opposing side, I can only imagine.
"Sometimes I catch myself, and I sit in Jo Konta press conferences and feel the same frustration that I'm sure all of them (reporters) felt, and I do sympathise with it.
"Sometimes I catch myself and I think, this is really difficult what she and everyone is having to do and I reprogram myself to feel, still frustrated, but maybe in a slightly more understanding, sympathetic way."
LEGENDS WEIGH IN: 'YOU CAN'T BE BULLIED'
Tennis legend John McEnroe joined the discussion and was on Konta's side. "I can't imagine a worse time to bring something up even if it's something that … obviously it's something she's thought about," McEnroe told the BBC. "You've got to throw this at her half an hour after she loses?
"She's perfectly permitted to say how she feels and she made it clear that this guy was being, in her mind, condescending, and acting as if she hadn't thought about that 1000 times already."
Former French star and 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli agreed Konta was entitled to respond how she did, saying on the BBC's coverage it's important for pros not to be "bullied" by the press.
"As a tennis player you just can't allow yourself to be bullied like this in a press conference from someone who probably never picked up a racquet himself and has never been on Centre Court," Bartoli said.
"I think she had the right attitude. If she wants to improve and actually go further in a grand slam and be in a final she will maybe have to sit down with her coach and see what happened in that match.
"She will have to work on her game … but you can't allow yourself to be bullied like this with someone in a press conference, it's just not possible."
PRESSURE WEIGHING KONTA DOWN
Writing for The Telegraph, Jim White said while Strycova deserved credit for playing a significant role in knocking Konta out, the pressure of trying to become the first homegrown Wimbledon ladies singles champion since Virginia Wade in 1977 was partly to blame for Konta's downfall.
"Expectation is a burden every Brit carries at Wimbledon. Andy Murray eventually learned to thrive on it. For much of this tournament, Konta looked as though she too was beginning to find accommodation with it," White wrote.
"She had beaten players ranked higher than her. She had won against former champions. But then, as happened in Paris, when it was an underdog blocking her path, she came undone at the last.
"The sad truth is, Konta was a significant party in her own defeat. Thirty-four unforced errors are no path to progression. Her forehand, so often her weapon of choice, here lost it potency. Shots that should have provided winners instead were over-hit, misdirected, hastily snatched at. And as she grew more nervy, more perturbed, more undone, so did the crowd."
SOCIAL MEDIA REACTS
Tennis correspondent for The Times, Stuart Fraser, suggested Konta was the one who first acted in a patronising manner in her presser but as is always the case on Twitter, there were plenty of different views.
Debate? LOL. Totally out of line questioning (if you can even call it “questioning”) and she handled it like a boss.— Ricky Dimon (@Dimonator) July 10, 2019
Not sure how it can be spun any other way than that.https://t.co/nrf2bGFgyY
No need for Konta to bite back at journalist. Tough but fair question. Media are not cheerleaders.— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) July 10, 2019
Watched the Konta interview.— Richard Amofa (@RichardAmofa) July 10, 2019
How was that patronising? 🤔
Looked like a fair line of questioning to me. Completely valid.
BBC presenter Aziz Farni wrote: "So much debate on this interview. IMO it's completely fair to question Konta on her performance. But the follow up Q ('as somebody who presumably wants to learn from this and win a slam') is a father talking to a naughty six year old. Would Murray have been asked in the same way?"
For her part, Konta issued this social media post the morning after her defeat.