By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Johanna Konta’s often tetchy relationship with Britain’s tennis media corps turned sour again as she accused them of “picking on me” after her quarter-final loss to Czech Barbora Strycova at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
The Sydney-born, 28-year-old raised home hopes when she powered into a 4-1 lead against the unseeded Strycova but things turned ugly as she slumped to a 7-6(5) 6-1 Centre Court defeat.
While the 33-year-old Strycova played impressively to outsmart the 19th seed, Konta was the architect of her own downfall as she blazed 34 unforced errors against an opponent who simply had too much guile.
The outcome ended Britain’s hopes of a first women’s singles champion here since Virginia Wade in 1977.
Considering Konta is a three-time Grand Slam semi-finalist with a career-high ranking of four and was a clear favourite to win Tuesday’s match, it did not seem unreasonable for her to be asked whether she could have performed better.
Perhaps the pressure of being Britain’s big hope in the absence of Andy Murray from the singles had got to her, but Konta was in no mood for negativity.
“Is that in your professional tennis opinion?” she snapped during a post-match news conference. “Okay. I mean, I don’t think you need to pick on me in a harsh way. I think I’m very open with you guys. I say how I feel out there. If you don’t want to accept that answer or you don’t agree with it, that’s fine.
“I still believe in the tennis I play. I believe in the way I competed. I don’t have much else to say to your question.”
Pushed further, she said: “Please don’t patronise me…
“No, no, you are. In the way you’re asking your question, you’re being quite disrespectful and you’re patronising me.
“I’m a professional competitor who did her best today, and that’s all there is to that.”
Konta had reached her second Wimbledon quarter-final with impressive victories over former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
Despite losing her only previous match with Strycova it still seemed an inviting route to a semi-final date with Serena Williams but for the second Grand Slam in a row an unseeded Czech proved her undoing.
With a first Grand Slam final beckoning in the French Open semi-finals last month, Konta lost 7-5 7-6 to teenager Marketa Vondrousova, blowing 5-3 leads in both sets.
Konta remains convinced, however, that she will end Britain’s long wait for a successor to Wade.
“I think the best I can do is put myself in the positions, to give myself the opportunity to keep going further and further. I mean, it will either happen or it won’t,” she said.
“I’m no less of a person or a player if I don’t get past this point. Equally so if I do.
“I play this game with dignity, and I love the sport. I’m grateful for everything that it brings me.”
Konta has fallen out with the British media before.
After her fourth successive French Open first-round defeat last year, she appeared to blame the loss on reporters.
“If every time you went in to work, let’s say you went into work because…, and let’s say for a few years your pieces of writing have just been crap every time when you come into Roland Garros. Right? Just crap.
“Then your colleagues start to say, ‘You know, you really suck around that time.’ And that happens, you know, for a few years. How would you guys digest that?”
(This story corrects Konta’s seeding to 19th in third paragraph)
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Mark Heinrich)