After being knocked out of Wimbledon, Johanna Konta then had to deal with a journalist’s “disrespectful” manner.
What you want in the moments after a big sporting loss in front of an international audience is to spend some time coming to terms with what happened.
What you don’t want is a journalist telling you to look at yourself and tell you about how you need to learn from your mistakes. But that’s unfortunately what tennis player Johanna Konta got in a press conference which took place after she was knocked out of Wimbledon.
British player Konta lost in straight sets in the quarter finals of this year’s competition to Barbora Strycova.
It can’t have been an easy loss, given that she hit 33 unforced errors against Strycova, who is unseeded.
And it was made worse by the journalist who quizzed Konta when she was still feeling very raw about the defeat.
Post-match press conferences are a regular occurrence in many sporting events, and they often include analysis of what went right, or wrong.
The exchange began with the male journalist spelling out some of Konta’s errors, before saying: “Do you not have to look at yourself a little bit about how you cope with these big points? Because it’s all very well saying it is a lot to do with your opponent but there were key points when you perhaps could have done better.”
Of course, it’s worth noting that post-match press conferences are a regular occurrence in many sporting events, and they often include analysis of what went right, or wrong.
But there’s a difference between asking someone to talk about what went wrong on the tennis pitch, and telling them that they could have done better, especially when you’re not a professional tennis player yourself – and Konta made sure to highlight this in her response.
Konta asked him if that was his professional tennis opinion, to which the man replied that it was his opinion as “a watching spectator with everyone else on Centre Court willing you on”.
“I don’t think you need to pick on me in a harsh way,” Konta replied calmly. “I think I’m very open with you guys and I say how I feel out there and if you don’t want to accept that answer or you don’t agree with it then that’s fine. But I still believe in the tennis I play and still believe in the way I competed and I don’t much have else to say to your question.”
But the man wasn’t done, saying to Konta: “I’m just asking you as someone who presumably wants to go on from here, learn from this and win a Grand Slam one day. Is it not something that you need…”
Konta quite rightly interrupted the journalist at this stage, no doubt astonished that he was questioning her desire to succeed, as if losing was something she enjoyed.
“Please don’t patronise me,” she said. When the journalist said he wasn’t, Konta continued: “No, no you are. In the way you are asking your question you are being quite disrespectful and you are patronising me. I am a professional competitor who did her best today and that’s all there is to that.”
Many on Twitter have since noted that it’s unlikely the journalist would have taken quite the same tone if he was interviewing a male player, and they have suggested there’s more than a hint of sexism on display in his questioning.
“Tim Henman would never have been questioned like that,” wrote one. “That was a vulgar display of [misogyny].”
Another added: “She rejected his assessment of her critique of her performance… so he mansplained to her why she should see things his way. Good for her telling him to get lost.”
And still one more noted: “The question is, would he have asked those questions, in that condescending, patronising way, to a male tennis player? And the answer is, no, he wouldn’t.”
It’s not the first time casual sexism has been on display among tennis journalists; reporters have a habit of forgetting Serena Williams’ achievements in favour of focusing on men, something that Andy Murray is not willing to let slide.
The last thing any of us would want on an off day is to have our perceived flaws pointed out to us, and that includes if you’re a professional sportsperson.
Konta’s failures play out on a world stage, and when she says she played her best, the right response is to accept that she knows best.