For those who don’t know much about Johanna Konta, the newest British player on the women’s Tour, she is the child of Hungarian parents and was born and raised in Sydney until the age of 14. After moving to Britain in 2005, she qualified to play for the country shortly before Wimbledon this year and her victory in the first round at the US Open means she will rise to somewhere around the 150 mark and with an excellent attitude, she could yet go a lot higher.
As you might expect, her transfer of allegiance has raised a few eyebrows and she has received plenty of criticism for switching to a country like Britain, where the LTA has plenty of money and can invest in players more than in other options for Konta. Nothing wrong in that, from her point of view, but in incidences like this, sections of the media love to question their “Britishness”.
On Tuesday, after her win over Timea Babos in round one at Flushing Meadows, Konta was asked whether, as part of the “Life in the UK” test, given to people wanting to become British, she was forced to learn the national anthem. She said she had not learnt it yet, but that she promised to in the future.
Well, quite frankly, who cares whether she knows the national anthem or not. I would be that if you asked 100 British-born and raised people to give you the words to the first verse, only half would get it right. And beyond the first verse, probably five percent would know it. Most would also fail the Life in the UK test, I am sure.
Konta speaks with an English accent, with a hint of Eastern Europe and the occasional Aussie twang. She admits that she doesn’t know yet what it feels like to be British but again, who cares. She is very happy to represent the country and is doing a good job on the court. Do other nations have this kind of debate when players come along who were not born in their country? Also – an unrelated footnote to this; the announcer in the media room at the US Open needs to have a quick chat to some of the British people to check the pronunciation of Konta. Clue – there’s no “u” in it.
Sections of the press did the same with Laura Robson, too – the Aussies like to claim her as one of their own since she was born in Melbourne, but the Robson family moved to Singapore when she was 18 months old and then to Britain when she was six.