Meet the Hungaro-Aussie Brit...

Johanna Konta has three passports, a world ranking of 217 – and a wild card into Wimbledon

Have racket, will travel.

Changing national allegiance has become part of the way of modern tennis, and the Wimbledon crowd will get their first view this week of the latest addition to the British ranks: Johanna Konta, who has Hungarian parents, was born and raised in Australia but has lived in Britain for the past seven years. She became a British citizen last month and will compete at the All England Club at senior level for the first time.

Konta, a 21-year-old of great potential, is by no means the first to follow such a route and will surely not be the last. Greg Rusedski spent his first 17 years living in Canada – his father had emigrated from Ukraine and his mother was from Yorkshire – and did not become a British citizen until he was 22. More recently, Laura Robson was born in Melbourne to Australian parents, came to Britain with her family when she was six and became a British citizen four years ago.

Others, however, have slipped through the net. When Serbia and Montenegro played a Davis Cup tie in Glasgow six years ago one member of the visiting team and his family held informal discussions with the Lawn Tennis Association about possibly moving and even switching national allegiance. The player's name? Novak Djokovic.

In a more fluid world it is inevitable that nationality sometimes become blurred – England's rugby and cricket teams have several players who were born and raised overseas – but in tennis a distinct pattern has emerged. Players from poorer lands, particularly in eastern Europe, are moving, often with their families, to countries that offer them good training facilities, sometimes in exchange for their citizenship.

Kazakhstan is the most striking example. The four highest-ranked men from Kazakhstan and the top three women are all Russians who have switched nationality in recent years. The players' lives are made easier and generally the only payback expected is to play for their adopted country. Kazakhstan's men have subsequently reached the Davis Cup's elite World Group, while the country's women have just enjoyed their best-ever run in the Fed Cup.

Most players consider Australia too remote to be their base, but good weather and training facilities are still an attraction. Three of Australia's current top-six women are former eastern Europeans who changed their national status. Jelena Dokic's family moved from Serbia to Australia 18 years ago, while Jarmila Gajdosova (born in Bratislava, Slovakia) and Anastasia Rodionova (born in Tambov, Russia) were given Australian citizenship in 2009.

Most of the recent switches in allegiance are purely down to tennis considerations, but the granting of US citizenship last year to Varvara Lepchenko, who is from Uzbekistan, recalled the examples of Martina Navratilova and Ivan Lendl, who settled in the United States after fleeing the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia. Lepchenko, her father and sister applied for political asylum when at a junior event in Florida 11 years ago and never went home. Lepchenko's mother was not allowed to join them for more than four years.

Konta now has Hungarian, Australian and British passports. Born in Sydney, she went initially to the Sanchez Casal academy in Barcelona before her parents decided to settle in Britain in 2005 for the sake of her tennis career. "Australia is so far and we were looking for either a base in Europe or the US just to be at the heart of things," the world No 217 said. "I feel British because I've lived here for seven years now, my friends are here, all my [tennis] support systems are here."

Konta, who speaks with barely a trace of an Australian (or indeed Hungarian) accent, lives in Eastbourne and trains at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton. A fine athlete with a big serve and powerful groundstrokes, she describes herself as an aggressive baseliner.

Konta has had little experience of grass. Her only other visit to Wimbledon was four years ago, when she played in the junior tournament, and this will be her first experience of a Grand Slam senior event. Having been granted a wild card, she has a tough first-round draw against the world No 30, Christine McHale, of the United States.

"Obviously the public won't really know me like the other British girls, so it will be interesting to see how much support people will actually come and give me," she said. "I've been walking round trying to get myself acclimatised to the whole place. It's a little overwhelming."

Case studies in changing flags

Yaroslava Shvedova (Russia to Kazakhstan)

Born in Moscow but has represented Kazakhstan since 2008 – in 2010 became first Kazakh to win a Grand Slam title (Wimbledon women's doubles) and added US doubles title.

Alex Bogomolov Jnr (US to Russia)

Born in Moscow but changed nationality last year after living most of his life in Florida. US Tennis Federation demanded repayment of $75,000 to cover grants and coaching costs.

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'