Sports

Konta has no doubt where her allegiance lies

Much attention over Sydney-born Konta's nationality as she scores a 
first in 29 years

The nationality of Sydney-born Briton Johanna Konta continues to cause fascination at the Australian Open, with even the Internet seeming to think she's Australian.

Konta, who spent her childhood Down Under before her family moved to Britain, has politely fended off a barrage of questions about whether she would consider switching allegiance.

Yesterday, after Konta reached the last 16, the on-court interviewer insisted she had traces of an Australian accent.

Later, a journalist told her that an Internet search showed an Australia flag next to her name.

"It's not the first time that mistake has been made. It's all good. I'm definitely playing for Great Britain," she said.

The attention is a compliment to Konta, who eased past Czech Denisa Allertova 6-2, 6-2 to become the first British woman to reach the fourth round in 29 years.

STUN

The 24-year-old, who stunned eighth seed Venus Williams in the first round, also equalled her best Grand Slam performance set at the US Open in September.

"I have been amazed with how much support I've gotten, but I don't know if that's a British contingent here or if that's from my Australian roots," said Konta, whose sister still lives in Sydney.

"I don't know. I'm just very grateful for all the people who do come out.

"Whether they are supporting me or the player I'm playing against, it's always good to have a lot of people around. It brings good energy."

The world No. 47, who equals Jo Durie's performance at the 1987 Australian Open, will play Russian 21st seed Ekaterina Makarova next for a place in the quarter-finals.

If she wins, there's no doubt her nationality will come up again.

"I'm getting a lot of Australia questions. It is a compliment for you guys to be interested in my Australian roots but, unfortunately, it's going to be a very boring answer to all these questions," she said.

The loss of local-born athletes to other nations, particularly those who end up representing arch-rivals Britain, is difficult for sports-obsessed Australia to swallow.

Konta has been compared by local media to Laura Robson, who was born in Melbourne but ended up winning a mixed doubles silver medal for Team GB at the London Olympics.

Australia, however, has also embraced foreign-born tennis players, with Muscovite Daria Gavrilova switching nationality from Russia only weeks ago - just in time to help her adopted nation win the Hopman Cup and also make a run to the fourth round at Melbourne Park.

Other players with more tenuous links have been "adopted", including Belgian four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters, who was affectionately known as "Aussie Kim" due to her relationship with local champion Lleyton Hewitt.

Former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic was also embraced as "Aussie Ana" after she became involved with top local golfer Adam Scott.

Though a resident of Australia until her teen years, Konta has sounded like an enthusiastic tourist during her time in Melbourne and has raved about the country's culinary delights.

"You guys need to eat passion fruit here. It's unbelievable," said Konta.

"And toast and chia pods. I don't know how to say it but, again, great."

- Wire Services.

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