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Johanna Konta and the mystery of her disappearing tennis career

As Emma Raducanu posts photos of her off-season training block, what has become of the woman she replaced as British No 1? Or, to put it more directly, is Johanna Konta heading for retirement?

It’s not as if Konta has disappeared from view. She will be a panellist on BBC1’s Question of Sport on Friday night, having already served as a pundit for Amazon Prime’s recent coverage of Indian Wells. Her new career as a talking head is developing nicely.

Yet one place where Konta has not been seen is at the National Tennis Centre in south-west London, where she would normally be building up her fitness in preparation for January’s Australian Open. Instead, those around her say that she is preparing for a small wedding ceremony with long-term boyfriend Jackson Wade, probably some time in December.

There are various practical issues working against a trip to Melbourne. Now ranked at No 112, Konta would have to rely on withdrawals from other players to earn direct entry to the Australian Open. She would also have to prove that she has been double-vaccinated against Covid. This seems unlikely, given how sceptical her public pronouncements on vaccination have been to date.

When contacted for comment, Konta’s management said: “Jo is currently working to assess if she’ll be ready to play. With the entry deadline being on the 6th December, she’ll be making a decision soon.” But the widespread assumption inside British tennis is that she will not be travelling to Australia, and has now reached the stage where other priorities – primarily, starting a family – will take precedence.

This leads to another question. If her domestic life becomes the priority, could Konta continue to compete as a mother? The likes of Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka have proved that it can be done, especially now that the Women’s Tennis Association have brought in rules to help returning parents with their rankings. But Konta did not sound enthusiastic on this point when asked about it in December last year.

“I can’t say I ever imagine myself playing on tour as a mother,” she replied then. “I am not closed to the idea. One thing I have worked very hard on during my career is to stay quite open to things around me. But probably I’d see myself retire and then start a family.”

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