Born an Aussie, raised a Brit. Konta's a star in Melbourne
MELBOURNE: Johanna Konta became the first British woman in 29 years to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open on Saturday, giving rise to "a lot of Australia questions" at Melbourne Park.
The 24-year-old Konta was born in Sydney and moved with her family to England in 2005, long before becoming a British citizen in 2012. Her success at the season's first Grand Slam has given the Brits and Aussies something to celebrate, and scrutinize.
After defeating Denisa Allertova 6-2, 6-2 in the third round Saturday, Konta was complimented by her on-court interviewer for having "an Aussie accent with a tinge of British" when she speaks.
The BBC, meanwhile, hailed her as "Queen Konta" in a congratulatory tweet after the match. She is the first British woman to reach the Australian Open's round of 16 since Jo Durie in 1987.
Konta has a powerful baseline game and in the past year has demonstrated a knack for beating top-ranked players. At last year's U.S. Open she beat Garbine Muguruza, who was coming off a run to the final at Wimbledon, and has also had wins in 2015 over No. 2 Simona Halep and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka.
The 47th-ranked Konta announced her arrival at the Australian Open by beating No. 8 Venus Williams in the first round, staging one of the first upsets of the tournament.
Konta was half-jokingly asked by Australian media after beating Williams, a seven-time major winner, if she could be persuaded to move back to Australia, to which she had a very polite response.
"No, unfortunately, my home is Britain. It has been for a long time now, over a decade," Konta said with a good-natured smile at a post-match news conference. "Yeah, that's where my heart is."
She has assured her interviewers, when asked, that she still has vivid childhood memories of her early years in Australia, where she played under-12 nationals during the heat of an Australian summer.
After one long match she and her childhood opponent were "kicking our shoes off because the rubber was melting and our feet were so hot. That's a definite significant memory," she said.
In the fourth-round, Konta faces No. 21-seeded Ekaterina Makarova, a semifinalist here last year.
"She's a tough opponent," said Makarova, who lost to Konta at the British player's home tournament in Eastbourne last year and has been keeping track of her progress. "She beat Venus in the first round (here). It shows she's in good shape and also a great fighter."
If the past few rounds are any indication, Konta can expect some home crowd support in the next round.
"I've been amazed with how much support I've gotten," Konta said Saturday. "I don't know if that's a British contingent here, or if that's from my Australian roots. I don't know. I'm just very grateful."
She also thanked her fans Down Under for all their questions and curiosity.
"I'm getting a lot of Australia questions," she told her news conference. "It is a compliment (that you're) interested in my Australian roots."