Tennis, already frozen in the sunshine, took another hit on Tuesday – along with the rest of sport – when the Tokyo Olympics were postponed, and Johanna Konta is feeling the chill more than some.
The British No 1 is no more than “hopeful” about Wimbledon, which is due to start on 29 June, shortly before the now delayed Olympics.
Konta, still working through rehab on a knee injury that has slowed her progress for more than a year, said: “Even just a few weeks ago, who knew we would be in this situation, constantly changing – and changing rapidly? Everyone is hopeful that the constant change could bring us a change for the better as well.”
The men’s and women’s tours, already shut down until 7 June with only a tentative commitment to resume in time for Wimbledon, now have seen the non-grand-slam centrepiece of their season crumble. As a member of the WTA’s player council, Konta reckons the enforced pause could give the game time to “thrash out the best course for tournaments, players, everybody, with [frozen] rankings and all those sorts of things”.
That, at least, was her agenda linked to the recent past, when Indian Wells was cancelled a month ago and the European clay season then put on hold. Konta has to dwell now on the inconvenient present and an uncertain future. She carries on in isolation – protecting against coronavirus, of course, but also in the absence of the backup normally available for elite players with injury.
“I got back from the US about 10 days ago. I have some equipment at home so I am able to train, but it’s by no means ideal. I am trying to make the best of the situation. This is not ideal for the knee. I don’t have access to the equipment that I specifically need: team, physio, fitness trainer, the best method to get the kind of stimulus that we want for the body and the knee. But I’m not getting too stressed over it.”
Until Monday, Konta was visiting the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton but the facility has closed in line with government guidelines on isolation. “I can’t bring what I need into the flat. I need a leg-press machine. That specific knee exercise, I can’t do right now. In this country, athletes still have access to our respective training grounds, as long as the necessary precautions are observed. But the goalposts are moving.”
As for Wimbledon, she said: “I think more than anything it’s important to be hopeful. Nothing wrong with being hopeful. For me, it’s about not looking too far ahead; we don’t know how it is going to develop. Now we know we are not playing until the beginning of June, that’s the date we are working towards. When that changes, if it changes, we react to whatever comes next.”
Meanwhile she and her photographer partner, Jackson Wade, are holed up in their London flat as Konta keeps in touch with her parents in Eastbourne, and she is desperate to see them once travel restrictions are lifted. She is baking a chocolate chip banana loaf – which she’d like to share, but can’t – and trying to keep her dog, Bono, from upsetting her 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.
“The next few months could be quite long,” she says with a smile. “Who knows?”