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Johanna Konta ready to go

We get the lowdown on the preparation techniques that have taken johanna konta right to the top of the game

  • Words: Ben Brown
  • Photography: Christopher Quick

"Preparation is key." This simple, indisputable mantra must be among the most commonly used phrases in sport. But what does it mean? How can you ever be totally prepared for something so fluid, so dynamic, as a tennis match, for example?

To find out the answers to these questions and more, we caught up with one of the game’s strongest advocates of the power of preparation, British No.1 Johanna Konta. The 25-year-old’s progress in recent years has been nothing short of remarkable: from a starting point outside the top 300 in 2011, she’s now regularly competing for titles, and looks likely to be one of the main contenders at Wimbledon this summer.

A rise like that can’t be explained as simply the blossoming of a young talent – the only way a player improves at such a rate is through considered, calculated work. The kind of work that requires planning, determination, and a temperance of character that extends beyond the white lines of the court.

There’s something for everyone here – pick up some tips below then check out Jo’s favourite shoe, the impressively resilient ASICS GEL-Resolution 7.

How To Prepare For A Big Match

Johanna Konta’s matchday preparation is second to none – pick up some tips as she explains the key to continued success in our exclusive interview.

On matchday preparations

  • It’s the night before matchday and you’re about to go to bed. How do you control your mind to make sure you get a good night’s rest?
  • The night before I usually like to prepare my things. I pack my bag the same way, I put my clothes together the same way. I get the gels and supplements and things like that that I’m going to need the next day. Then otherwise just switching off. I like to read, sometimes turn on the TV, watch some shows. I think it’s just keeping your mind occupied. And going to bed on time, making sure you sleep enough hours, that’s important too.
  • What kind of time do you wake up?
  • It depends on when I’m scheduled in the day. If I’m playing a night match for example, I try to start my day as late as possible, otherwise you can be quite tired towards the end if you’ve woken up too early. But then again, if it’s an early start, everything gets pushed forward. It really is based around the timing of your match.
  • So you’re up – what’s for breakfast?
  • Well I love fruit, and I always love eggs. And then whatever else looks good on the buffet!

I’m not letting my mind drift too far forward, or too far behind.

Johanna Konta - British No.1
  • Do you have any special routines you go through before you leave the hotel?
  • Well, the night before, when I pack my bag, I have everything in the same place and pull out the same amount of outfits. I guess that’s a bit of a quirk of mine. But then breakfast, I usually have the same thing every day at the tournaments that I’m at. So it changes weekly, but it’s the same breakfast for a week.
  • Do you do any work with your coach on matchday?
  • All my pre-match stuff we generally do the night before. The morning is about breakfast! But yeah, with the team we usually go through the plan of the match the night before, and then right before the match we’ll go through key pointers and things to keep in mind.
  • Is there anything you do specifically for mobility and flexibility to prepare for a match?
  • I have a 15-20 minute foam rolling routine, which I do every single morning. I actually do that once I get to the court – it’s part of my warm up. I think you build up a tolerance to it – because you do it every day you don’t feel it as much anymore. I do notice if I haven’t done it for a few days. In my holidays for example, if I go and foam roll it definitely hurts a bit more.
  • Can you tell us about your warm up routine?
  • After I’ve done my 15-20 minute foam rolling and stretching routine, my warm up is a mixture of general warm up exercises, injury prevention and also some strength exercises. It’s not just run for 10 minutes and do sidesteps and things like that – I really enjoy waking up every part of my body.

How To Stay Calm Under Pressure

Ever wondered how Johanna Konta always looks so calm and in control on the court? Find out how she does it as we talk mental strength with the British No.1.

On mental strength

  • You have a specialist mental strength coach – Juan Coto. How did that relationship come about? Did you seek him out, was he recommended to you – what’s the story?
  • He was recommended to me by my coach. They’re good friends – actually they grew up in the same city, so they’ve known each other for quite some time. It was kind of natural for him to be part of our team. He’s a really down-to-earth, very calm person, and he’s able to pass on his wisdom to me I think quite easily, just because of the way he is.
  • You clearly value his input – can you quantify the differences in your game now you’ve spent a fair bit of time with him?
  • The biggest impact he’s made is how I approach tennis – how I train and how I compete. But also how I feel off court. Just where I take my enjoyment from. He’s made me be very honest with myself and also given me some great tools to use when things do get tough. I think that’s what he’s done the best – I’ve worked with mental trainers before, and I think what’s made the difference with our relationship is he’s been able to simplify and make things practical for me to be able to use.
  • One of the common phrases you use in post-match interviews is “staying present” – can you explain what that means and the benefits of that approach?
  • For me, it means that I’m not letting my mind drift too far forward, or too far behind. I’m really trying to stay … very present! For example, on the change of ends, I’ll think “Okay, I’m sitting on the bench, I can feel the bench under me, I can feel my feet in my shoes”.
  • How much do the different aspects of your training overlap? Do you try to keep the mental training separate from the physical?
  • We’ve never separated a tennis session from a mental session, because they intertwine in many different ways. Actually, Juan is sometimes there for my on-court sessions, and equally the rest of my team is sometimes there for the session with Juan.
  • Does your team get coached as well? To supply you with mental strength?
  • Definitely. That’s not limited to my working team – that also goes for my family. It’s important to have the same mindset from everybody, the same approach, so things get relayed to me on a consistent basis and I don’t get a different message from different people. Everything builds up slowly through time and through routine, so it’s important that everyone around me is on the same page.
  • You’ve talked in the past about how you’ve stopped thinking so much about trying to get in the top 50, top 10, or whatever – it sounds like you’re not setting such specific goals for yourself anymore. That’s quite unusual in professional sport. Do you set any goals at all?
  • The way I approach the sport is very personal to me and I think it’s something that has helped me enjoy what I do. That won’t be changing. My priorities will always remain the same: my enjoyment of what I do, and my health – being able to train and play as much as I want to. Rankings and results, they come and go, so if you attach yourself too much to them, in my case, this lifestyle will be even more up and down than it already is. You end up living and dying with your wins and losses.
  • You’ve had an amazing year. Do you have one particular highlight that springs to mind?
  • I’ve got three. The first one is Wimbledon this year, being seeded, and also my match against Genie Bouchard – although I lost it was a great match to be a part of, and to be on Centre Court at Wimbledon, that was really special to me. Then the Olympics, my match against Kusnetsova. It was probably the best match I’ve been involved in thus far. It was just so great, and obviously the Olympics themselves were … it was just life-changing. And finally Beijing – my match against Madison Keys when I broke the top 10, that was pretty special.
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Mind coach Juan Coto sadly passed away only a few weeks after this interview took place, aged just 47. Our thoughts go out to Juan’s family and Jo’s team at this time.

We get the lowdown on the preparation techniques that have taken Johanna Konta right to the top of the game.

In the coming months, Johanna Konta will be aiming to put her preparation into action as she competes at first the French Open, and then the big one: Wimbledon. We’ll be following her progress closely – look out for more exclusive content featuring Britain’s top players, including Jo, here at prodirecttennis.com and across our social channels.

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