Johanna Konta supports Serena Williams in row over drug-testing


BRITISH tennis star Jo Konta came out in support of Serena Williams yesterday in the growing row over the drug-testing regime in women’s tennis.

“I do feel there is definitely room for improvement in the way athletes are sometimes treated,” said Konta on the eve of Wimbledon.

The Williams camp claimed last week that the veteran champion has been discriminated against by being the subject of targeted testing from the doping authorities.

Konta, who inadvertently missed a test because of a time zone mix-up, also feels the system is too invasive.

“It’s important to have integrity in this sport, but it’s quite a violating process,” said No22 seed Konta, who reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year.

“People come to your home. You’re in your pyjamas. You get pulled out of bed, told to take down your pants, give your arm, pee in a cup. It’s an invasive process. It’s something that comes with the territory, but I don’t think I’ll miss it when I retire.

Wimbledon 2018: Johanna Konta said there is 'room for improvement' in the way athletes are treated

“My missed test was a tough one for me to swallow because it was a little bit out of my control, a mix-up about time zones basically.

“When it happened I was super stressed. I definitely felt hard done by because I’ve always tried to be really vigilant with it. I felt I got called out on a technicality, but I took sole responsibility for it.”

Williams was due to be asked about the same issue yesterday, but will now conduct her pre-Wimbledon media conference today.

She is unhappy about being tested five times in out-of-competition visits for doping samples, more than the top five US male tennis players put together.

Her camp also believes the treatment has been “invasive”.

For the vast majority of tennis fans, probably, the more compelling question concerns how well Serena will be able to compete at this year’s championships.

Williams has played few high-level matches since returning to action following birth of her daughter Alexis last year.

She won three rounds at the French Open but then withdrew from a showdown against old rival Maria Sharapova due to a muscle injury.

Wimbledon 2018: Serena Williams' camp believes her treatment has been ‘invasive’

Wimbledon acknowledged her status by putting her among the seeds at No25, even though her world ranking has slumped to No183 in her competitive absence.

Some players have criticised the decision by Wimbledon to seed Serena, but Konta appeared untroubled, saying: “I don’t think anyone was surprised.

I mean it was in the pipeline and has been spoken about for some time. The Grand Slams have always had the discretion of where they place seeds.”

Serena has the benefit of a kind first-round draw this time against unheralded Arantxa Rus, a 27-year-old of little pedigree from the Netherlands, and she is also in the opposite side of the tournament to world No1 Simona Halep and her sister Venus Williams.

The last time Serena was in the country it was to attend the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Now the undisputed queen of tennis is back – and ready to take centre stage as she attempts to create Wimbledon history.

If she could capture the women’s singles title for an eighth time it would be 16 summers since her first triumph at SW19 in 2002.

Nobody has ever won the individual crown with such a gap in years, not even Roger Federer.

It seems ‘age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety’ as Shakespeare wrote of Cleopatra, perhaps the most famous queen of history.

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