Johanna Konta, Virginina Wade: The top 5 British female stars to play at Wimbledon

Johanna Konta

Johanna Konta has had her ups and downs on her way to the top of women’s tennis.

The British number one has reached three Grand Slam semi-finals and been ranked as high as fourth in the world rankings, but it’s not been all plain sailing for the 30-year-old.

Speaking on the High-Performance podcast, Konta revealed her winning mindset growing up, the one time she gave up in competition and how all that led to the pinnacle of playing on centre-court at Wimbledon.

Competitive nature

Konta remembers when she first began learning to play tennis on synthetic grass courts. Even back then there was a natural desire to win and the Brit remembers trying as hard as she could to win every match she played.

“I just remember wanting to win and wanting to beat the other person and come out the victor. I think that’s what fueled me,” she admits.

This mentality transcended into all aspects of life, not just tennis. Konta used to wake up at 5am in the morning and race her dad up a hill. Sometimes she’d lose, while other times her dad would let her win.

Looking back the tennis star laughs at how she thought she could really beat her 30-year-old dad up a hill at the age of 10.

“I’m like to him, ‘did you let me win’ and he’s like ‘of course’. I felt so betrayed,” she jokes.

“I Still to this day think ‘why did I think for a moment actually think that a 10-year-old girl can beat her dad’, [but] I really thought I did.”

Johanna Konta at Wimbledon 2019

Never giving up

Though she had an innate competitive nature, there were times when Konta struggled with having her life consumed by tennis.

She recalls a time when she was at a friend’s house and had a tournament to play. Konta was tired and nervous and ended up faking a stomach bug and giving up in her first match.

To this day, the Brit remembers her dad’s reaction, who told her she should never simply “give up.” After crying for “maybe like an afternoon”, Konta begged her dad for another chance and from that moment she never looked back.

“I just remember that moment when I was a young girl and why I should never give up, and why I should never just throw in the towel and leave.”

The thrill of Wimbledon

From running up hills, to learning that the power to succeed was in her own hands. All these moments led to Konta eventually turning professional and playing on the biggest stage.

Having reached the last four of the Australian Open in 2016 and the quarter-finals of the Olympics that same year, it was 2017 which proved to be a year to remember.

The Brit reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon and had the entire nation willing her on. While there were obviously nerves, Konta remembers the situation actually felt quite normal.

Johanna Konta at Wimbledon 2019

“I remember kind of looking up in the stands and just looking at my boyfriend there and thinking, ‘well, actually after this, we’ll go home and you’ll still love me’.I think that’s why it’s actually so much better than what you dream of because it’s just normal.”

Konta’s run to the Wimbledon semis in 2017 was one of many inspiring British performances at the All England Club.

Here’s a look at the top five British women to have featured in the competition:

Virginia Wade

Wade is the last British woman to win Wimbledon, having famously won the competition in 1977 –– the tournament’s centenary year.

It was also the year of Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, and the Queen personally attended the final for the first time since 1962.

On her way to victory, Wade beat tennis legend and 18 time Grand Slam winner Chris Evert in the semis, followed by the Netherlands’ Betty Stöve in the final.

Stöve also emerged victorious over tennis royalty en route to the final, having beaten Martina Navratilova in the quarter-finals and Britain’s Sue Barker in the last four.

Ranked as high as second in the world, Wade won three major tournaments in total, including the US Open in 1968 and the Australian Open in 1972.

Virginia Wade at Wimbledon 1977

Angela Mortimer

A former world number one, Mortimer won three Grand Slams over the course of her career.

After winning the French Open in 1955, the Brit suffered a severe illness and did return to full fitness until 1958.

In 1961 she claimed her maiden Wimbledon crown, aged 29, and while partially deaf.

Mortimer is married to BBC commentator and author John Barrett, who was also a professional tennis player during the 1950s and 60s.

Ann Jones

Jones won the 1969 Wimbledon Championships in only the second competition of the open era.

In total, Jones reached nine major finals in the 1960s, winning three. She is perhaps unfortunate to have played at a time when many of the sport’s most iconic players also featured, with two of her losses coming to King and another to Margaret Court.

Her win in 1969, however, saw her beat both of these players on her way to victory.

Since 2017, Jones has served as vice president of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

Ann Jones at Wimbledon

Dorothea Lambert Chambers

Lambert Chambers is the most successful British woman of all time at Wimbledon –– winning seven singles titles and a gold medal at the 1908 Summer Olympics.

In 1911, she won her fifth title against Dora Boothby 6-0 6-0, becoming the first player to win by such a margin in a major final. Steffi Graf is the only other player to do the same when she defeated Natalia Zvereva at the 1988 French Open.

The Brit also undertook war work during the First World War, first at Ealing hospital and then the Little Theatre.

While she died in 1960, she was posthumously inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1981.

Lottie Dodd

Dodd is the youngest Wimbledon singles champion in history, having won her first title when she was just 15 years old in 1887.

Overall, she finished her career with five titles, but tennis was not her only talent. In addition, Dodd competed in golf, field hockey and archery.

She won the British Ladies Amateur Golf Championship, played twice for England’s national field hockey team and won a silver medal in archery at the 1908 Summer Olympics.

The Guinness Book of Records has named her as the most versatile female athlete of all time, together with American star Babe Zaharias.

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