Johanna Konta: International Women’s Day should be a celebration, not a fight

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Britain’s number one women’s tennis player Johanna Konta has marked International Women’s Day by writing exclusively for Press Association Sport about life, equality, and the desire to win:

Whenever I’m asked the question ‘What would you be if you weren’t a tennis player?’ it makes me remember how much I used to enjoy running before tennis became my main focus.

I was a good track runner. I would always do well in school and state competitions, winning most of the races I took part in. I remember wanting to win the race against my classmates: beating not only the boys or only the girls, but ALL my classmates. Doing my best against everyone – and hopefully winning – was what I cared about.

That’s pretty much how I still feel. Don’t get me wrong; International Women’s Day and all that it represents is really important. We need to talk about issues of equality and, as a sportswoman in a high-profile sport like tennis, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to do that.

Throwing it way back! #littleme

A post shared by Johanna Konta (@jokonta91) on

Sexism in sport was just not on my radar as a child. No-one ever said anything about sport being for boys or made me feel that I was being discriminated against. I give my parents a lot of credit for that.

My mum and dad coached me with endless support in pursuing my dreams: not as a girl but as a person. The emphasis was always on having the right values, on always giving your best and having integrity in what you do.

It’s only really in the last couple of years, since I’ve been doing more interviews and been involved in the WTA Player Council, that I’ve begun to be much more conscious that my experience was somewhat rare and that there is, sadly, still a lot more inequality in sport (and a lot of other things!) than I realised.

I find it a bit surprising, for example, that there are people out there who are unhappy that women get equal prize money at tournaments where the men and women compete together.

I hear the ‘men play best of five but women play best of three’ argument often but this doesn’t resonate with me. The quality of a match isn’t judged on its length or on its competitors, but on its quality. There are as many compelling, engrossing and dramatic matches in both women’s and men’s tennis.

I urge people to remember the incredible match played by Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep at this year’s Australian Open; or that my quarter-final match against Simona in Wimbledon 2017 was reportedly the most-watched match of the entire Championships on the BBC.

Konta's quarter-final against Simona Halep attracted the biggest BBC TV audience for any match at Wimbledon last year
Konta’s quarter-final against Simona Halep attracted the biggest BBC TV audience for any match at Wimbledon last year (Adam Davy/PA)

Fans in Indian Wells and Miami are not coming to watch men’s tennis or women’s tennis; they are coming to watch tennis. That’s the same at the grand slams like Wimbledon. There are different styles of play and different personalities, and fans can root for their favourites irrespective of gender.

We are all tennis players, doing our best in an incredibly competitive sport. Let’s celebrate our sporting prowess, women and men alike, and continue focusing on what makes our sport so compelling: the desire to win.

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