It was well past midnight Friday morning, and Johanna “Jo” Konta had just outlasted one of her idols, Venus Williams, to advance to the Miami Open final on Saturday.
Her gleeful reaction was a reminder that unlike her next opponent, former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, reaching the final weekend of big tournaments is still new for the 25-year-old from Great Britain.
“Yay! I made it to the end! Woo!” she declared, with a big smile on her face.
A few years ago, Konta was a fringe player outside the Top 100. Last year, she opened the season at No. 48 and became the first British woman in 33 years to finish the year in the Top 10 – at No. 10. She was named WTA Most Improved Player. Konta beat seven Top 10 players last year, and has a 3-1 record against Williams, including a title at Stanford (Calif.).
Although she may be unknown to the casual fan, she is no stranger to Wozniacki. The two met in the third round of the Australian Open in January, and Konta beat Wozniacki 6-3, 6-1 in 75 minutes.
“I remember I played very well that match,” Konta said. “Until the very end, I knew that it was never for certain. I think that's the thing with Caroline -- she never goes away. She's there until the very, very last ball.”
Konta is expecting the same from the Dane on Saturday.
“Against Caroline, I'm definitely going to be looking forward to playing a lot of balls and a lot of tough points,” Konta said. “She's one of the best athletes in the game. She ran a marathon for goodness sake. I'm sure it'll be a match where I'll be running for a lot of balls. Hopefully we'll give a great match for the final.”
Wozniacki has played Key Biscayne 10 times, but this is the first time she advanced to the final. She entered as the No. 14 seed and is aiming to win her 26th career title. Wozniacki owns a home in Miami and trains here in the off-season, so she will feel right at home at the Crandon Park Tennis Center.
“I’ve made a few finals in Indian Wells (Calif.), and I’ve won it once, but Miami is one of the few tournaments where I’ve never made a final,” Wozniacki said. “I’m really pleased to make it this far. There is one more match to go, and I’m going to try my best to win that one.”
Konta will move up to No. 7 in the rankings with a victory, or No. 9 with a defeat.
Either way, she is a player to keep an eye on as the season progresses. Born in Sydney, Australia, to Hungarian parents, Konta moved to England at age 14. She represented Australia until 2012, when she became a British citizen.
Although she is becoming more and more well-known back home, she is not under the same scrutiny as the top British male – Andy Murray, who withdrew from the Miami Open with an elbow injury.
“I think the fortunate position that I'm in is we have someone called Andy Murray who, bless him, has carried most of that weight on his shoulders,” Konta said. “But it's also a great thing we promote tennis there. If it's talked about, circulated, it's only good for our sport. If it grows at home, that's a good thing.”