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Interview: British number one Johanna Konta

Following an impressive year that saw her move almost 100 places up the world rankings, Sports Mole speaks to Britain's number one tennis player Johanna Konta.

When Great Britain's Johanna Konta retires, she may very well look back on 2015 as the year that she started to realise her true potential.

The 24-year-old began the year ranked 146 in the world, but an impressive six-month period has seen the Australia-born right-hander shoot up to 48th spot.

Such an elevation was down to a string of impressive displays and results, which included victories over the likes of Garbine Muguruza, Andrea Petkovic and world number two Simona Halep, as well as an appearance in the last 16 of the US Open.

Johanna Konta of Great Britain reacts during her Women's Singles Second Round match against Garbine Muguruza of Spain on Day Four of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2015© Getty Images

Here, Sports Mole caught up with Konta, who has been nominated for the BT Sport Action Woman of the Year award, to discuss her success this year, as well as how she intends to deal with the pressure that will be on her shoulders going forward.

Your rise up the world rankings over the last 12 months has been significant and something that you must look back on with great pride?

"I'm very happy with the achievements that I've had this year, on paper and results-wise. But I'm also very happy to have been able to compete for a whole year and staying healthy. I've made headway towards my own goals and the by-products, which have been the results, are nice. I enjoyed some wonderful moments."

Is there one of those "wonderful moments" that sticks out in particular? Perhaps one that you feel was most important?

"If I'm completely honest, not really. What I hold closest was my first-round match at the French Open [against Denisa Allertova]. I lost [7-6(17) 4-6 6-2], but I had an incredibly great battle against a good player. I played well through qualifying as well and felt proud of the way that I competed in Paris. That definitely helped me to keep working harder and improving. It pushed me forward for the rest of the year."

Putting aside any technical improvements that you have made, how much can your rise up the rankings be put down to your mentality and strength of character?

"It's no secret that I've been working on my outlook, not just in tennis, but also on life in general. I've looked at the way that I approach things and how I react. It was a big part of my year. I am working with a mental coach, but it was a combination of all the people around me, including my family and coaches. Everyone was able to get across a clear message to me that strengthened the way in which I wanted to be working and living my every day."

With that in mind, how would you compare yourself now to where you were 12 months ago?

"One simple word would be that I'm happier, but that's quite a generic word. I'm certainly more content, but I'm not satisfied because I have a drive. I'm an ambitious person and I want to keep improving all of the time. I know what I bring to the court and to life in general, so in that respect I feel content."

Johanna Konta of Great Britain reacts against Louisa Chirico of the United States during their Women's Singles First Round match on Day Two of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 1, 2015© Getty Images

After such a good year, some players may be tempted to rest on their laurels. You come across as quite a determined character, so are you seeing 2015 as a stepping stone, rather than feeling like you've made it?

"Definitely, but nothing results-wise is guaranteed. If next year I'm asked the same question and I've had a healthy year, as well as knowing that I've left everything out there on the court, that to me would be a very successful year. Ranking points and tournament wins really do come and go, so that won't be how I judge how successful of a year I've had."

Does that mean that you don't necessarily take too much notice of the world rankings?

"It's nice because it's sort of a reward for all of my hard work. It also means that I get to play a different calendar next year, which is exciting. But, where I end each year is not the be all and end all. The ranking doesn't show who I am or show how good of a person I am. It's a great by-product of working hard, but I'm very clear on my goals, both on and off court."

In this country when someone has success, we tend to build them up and expect even more in the future, only to then shoot them down at the earliest opportunity. How are you going to cope with the rise in expectations? Or will you be able to zone that out?

"Maybe expectations will rise, but it's not something that I've really considered or thought about. I believe that pressure is a privilege and it's not a bad thing that people will be expecting good results from me. I'm not going to go to bed thinking about that, though, and I won't wake up thinking about it either.

"Things are very much under my control and I'm only going to focus on the things that I can affect. It comes down to my attitude. I can't promise any more than that I'm going to give my best. Results come and go, but it's lovely to be recognised."

The media attention in yourself has also undoubtedly intensified. How do you ensure that it doesn't become a problem or overawe you?

"It's nice to have people interested in my journey. I feel very lucky to have that kind of interest. The attention has intensified, developed and evolved recently, which means there are more commitments, but I'm very clear on making sure that I only do the things that are necessary and are useful. Obviously my time is much better spent on the court."

Johanna Konta of Great Britain in action against Su-Wei Hsieh of Taipei on day four of the AEGON International tennis tournament at Devonshire Park on June 18, 2013© Getty Images

You've also been nominated for the BT Action Woman of the Year award alongside the likes of Nicola Adams and the England Lionesses. What does it mean to be included alongside such big names?

"I'm so happy to be nominated. I've watched the videos of the other nominees and I just thought 'oh my goodness'. There's world champions everywhere! It puts things into perspective and it's such an amazing group of women that have had incredible years, so I'm very happy that I get to go to a red-carpet event and be involved."

On a more general note, how do you rate the standard of women's tennis in Britain at present. Laura Robson and Heather Watson have struggled with injuries and illness recently, but is there reason for optimism?

"It's great. Unfortunately, injuries and illness are part of life and obviously it's emphasized when you're involved in sport because it keeps you from competing and giving your best. Still, Heather had a great year, Naomi Broady did well and it's nice to see that Laura is coming back. Hopefully she can keep getting stronger and will be with us. We're doing okay. I'm quite happy for the prospect of our Fed Cup and Olympic teams."

Clare Balding will present the BT Sport Action Woman of the Year Awards show on Tuesday, December 1, live on BT Sport 1 from 7.30pm.

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Johanna Konta of Great Britain reacts against Louisa Chirico of the United States during their Women's Singles First Round match on Day Two of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 1, 2015
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