How Mindfulness helps Johanna Konta

How Mindfulness helps Johanna Konta

Like many others, I sat glued to the TV screen while Johanna Konta played brilliant tennis to become the first British player since Virginia Wade in 1977 to reach the quarter final at Wimbledon.

Konta has always been dedicated to tennis, she picked up her first racquet at the age of 8 and by 9 she ‘wanted to be number 1 in the world’. But a combination of dedication and technical skill is not enough to win world class matches.

Several commentators have said that it has been Konta’s ability to control her nerves that has been the secret of her rise over the last 2 years from a world ranking of 146 at the start of 2015 to her current ranking of number 7.

For example: Marion Bartoli, 2013 Wimbledon champion: “Konta has been able to really stay in her bubble. She just plays so much within herself. She doesn’t want to have even more pressure from the crowd.

“She’s taking applause, which I think makes the opponent really feel the pressure, but Jo wants to stay within her tennis. I think with the history of her not being able to deal with the pressure, she found this new way to deal with it within herself. That’s why she’s in the semi-final.”

And Annabel Croft, former British number one: “Not even a flicker of emotion from Jo, that’s how she can cope with it.

“I have seen her have some meltdowns when under intense pressure, but she has learned. She has been done as much work on the mental side of her game as she has technique.”

Johanna KontaSo I was intrigued to find out how Johanna had conquered her nerves.  I found the answer in a recent interview Johanna gave for the Daily Telegraph. Konta is quick to acknowledge the help she received from her Spanish sports psychologist Juan Coto, who she started working with in 2014.

She says ‘Most importantly, he got me into the habit of using mindfulness and of trying to keep myself in the present, through being aware of my breath, my physical being – that does centre you.  It also disassociates you slightly from when you are in a stressful situation on court.  It teaches you good perspective.’

I can only imagine the pressure of playing on the centre court at Wimbledon.  How easy it would be to be distracted by the shouts from the crowd, to remember what went wrong the last time you played a particular player or to imagine what could happen.

Once a tennis player loses their focus, they have lost the match.  They will start to make mistakes and when a match is as close as that between Konta and Halep, one mistake can make the difference between winning and losing.

Many high-level sports people use mindfulness to help them to stay calm and focussed.  Tom Daley, Laura Trott and Kobe Bryant, to name but a few. Mindfulness can help us all to stay focused on whatever is really important to us.

Sheila Bond

Sheila is a Chartered Physiotherapist with many years’ experience in the NHS, mainly working with people in pain. She has always been interested in the connection between the body and the mind. She now offers both physiotherapy and mindfulness courses for stress, chronic pain and long-term health conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple-Sclerosis, Parkinsons, and Cancer.

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  • Great article Sheila. I too have been glued to the tennis and watching her in the quarter final last night I noticed how cool and calm she seemed. When interviewed afterwards about what was going through her head in the incredibly tense second set tie-break she said – exactly the same as throughout the first set. She said she had her game plan, knew what she wanted to do and wasn’t phased by the pressure. I think we could all do with incorporating mindfulness into what we do. She’s a fantastic example.

    • Sheila Bond Sheila Bond says:

      Thanks Lindsay, yes, she makes it sound easy but we all know it can be incredibly challenging to stick to your game plan in the face of pressure!

  • Thanks for this Sheila. It’s really interesting to know that Johanna uses mindfulness techniques to help her focus and remain unflustered in the face of huge pressure. I find mindfulness techniques to be essential in my everyday life, to help me juggle work and family life and in particular to help me focus on one task at a time. Great to know that they are the secret behind Johanna’s poise. I think – if she can achieve so much using them then what can I do?!

  • Sheila Bond Sheila Bond says:

    Yes, and I found it really interesting that she has had to work as hard on her mind as on her body – I think as a society we still underestimate the power of the mind.

  • Helen Peedell Helen Peedell says:

    Great article Sheila demonstrating the power of mindfulness and very interesting that Johanna Konta uses it so effectively. It was certainly very obvious how calm and confident she was whilst playing at Wimbledon. I have used some mindfulness techniques and find them very useful to keep the mind focused on the job in hand.

  • Sheila Bond Sheila Bond says:

    Thanks Helen, I love to hear real-life stories of how mindfulness helps

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