Coach Talks – Johanna Konta’s Coach Thomas Hogstedt
The WTA for the past two years has been bringing in coaches to meet the press at the Western & Southern Open. Here is a news conference with Johanna Konta’s coach Thomas Hogstedt.
Western & Southern Open
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
New York, New York, USA
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Can I just ask you, what attracted you to work with Johanna? What do you like about her game? Do you like anything about her personality? Just tell us about the first few weeks of working with her.
THOMAS HOGSTEDT: Yes, when I was asked to work with her a few weeks ago, I’m very attract — I like the kind of personality she is. She likes to work hard, and improve and, like, this one. So she remind me a lot of the players that I had much success with, with Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Wozniacki, this one. So I was very attracted to work with her, and I see how she has worked her way up and like that one.
So of course it’s a little bit different, always what I like to start with her when you do a preseason and when you really get a lot of weeks of training. So this is my first tournament with her here. I was not with her in Lexington. I was with her one week in London and practice and then we had, like, eight days here, which was very good.
Q. In particular this week, what has impressed you about how she’s approached this week, especially following a first-round loss in Lexington?
THOMAS HOGSTEDT: Yes, I’m very impressed overall her game, how she step up on the court, and is very aggressive from beginning. I mean, she was injured end of last year and during the whole long break. So when I saw her in London, she has improved a lot from this level.
So I’m very pleased with how she’s improving every match. I thought she played very well, actually all three matches here.
Q. You know, how do you go about kind of managing the coaching relationship right now, given that it’s obviously a little bit new while at the same time coaching under very unique circumstances of trying to balance how much practice she can actually do right now while maintaining her fitness and everything and preparing for a major? What’s your strategy there?
THOMAS HOGSTEDT: No, my strategy is, I mean, you can’t really change much in her game. You try to build confidence, build strategy. I mean, she hasn’t won a lot of matches before the break, because she had the problem with small injuries, so I tried to build up the tactic and how I want her to use her game the best possible way.
So that’s what I said before. With almost all the players I work with in the past, I had a long preseason except with Madison Keys I started in the middle of the season, but the other players I had like this one.
So you try maybe a little bit more than normal just listen to her even more than, and just get to feel exactly what she likes in the training. I mean, I like of course to follow a lot of players, but also I have a very clear mind how I want to improve the player.
Q. On that last question, what do you feel Johanna has to do to get to the next level? Last year she was really close to reaching the Roland Garros final and she had great results at slams. From what you’ve seen of her in the past and now, what do you think she needs to do to get to the next step?
THOMAS HOGSTEDT: I think she’s close. I had the privilege to work with a lot of the top players, and what I really see — I mean, every day they come to practice, they want to improve their game, and like this one. Johanna is very well round. She doesn’t really have any weakness.
So I want to build up even more the strength of her game. I’m always a believer when you come to the big tournaments and Grand Slam, like this one, it’s a lot of pressure and like this one, you need to have your base in the game and like this one. If you have done the right practice, you’re also strong under pressure.
I think just to keep her building. I mean, she’s been close to quite a few Grand Slams, and she’s very eager of improving.
So she’s very nice — I mean, I haven’t worked with her that long, so I don’t know so much yet, but so far what I saw from her before and, like, I mean, you’re traveling so many weeks together, so you kind of get to see the personality a lot of the different players and how they train and how they play and so on.
Q. Back when I was a finalist, we didn’t switch coaches as much as what’s going on these days. I’m just kind of wondering if you had a conversation coming into this new partnership about how to make it really last for a longer haul, because it seems, not just with Konta, but it seems like there are so many coaching changes the last few years, it’s really tough to follow. I want your opinion on that part.
THOMAS HOGSTEDT: Yeah, it’s clearly, it’s a lot of changing I think overall. I mean, you see some of the successful, they work for a longer time. I think it’s — yeah, it’s just — I think it’s not very healthy for the players to change so much. That’s why you see the ones successful. That’s what you really need to build a big trust to the players like I felt when I was working with, let’s say, Sharapova, Li Na, and so on, and Wozniacki and so on.
So it is difficult, and I mean, you never really know, but when you go into working with a player, how exactly how they work and how you work together and so on, it’s clearly, for sure, too many changes and like that one. Why this, I don’t really know, doing like that one.
And then it’s of course also very often the coach, you know. For me, it’s been sometimes challenging, because when you work with somebody like Maria, it’s of course very important to work exactly with a player how they like and how their personality and so on. That’s why you try to search for both player and coach which fits that.
But I think it will be healthy for the players when they stay a longer time with a coach. That’s what I had the luck with Maria to have unbelievable trust, even in tough times, to keep on working.
That’s why you see, yeah, a lot of the long-term coaching relationships have been very successful. Even in tough days they continue work and build on that.
Q. Jo Konta has been so close to getting to Grand Slam finals. She hasn’t quite made it. What do you think she’s missing, physical or mental, just to get to the final and get over the hurdle and win a major?
THOMAS HOGSTEDT: I don’t think she’s missing. I think she’s actually very strong the way she perform under pressure in Wimbledon when she made the semis and beat Halep and like that one.
I think she can keep improving her game, but I think she’s mentally very strong. I think she has showed that a lot, and she’s a hard worker. I mean, she has a very, I think, interesting history how she came up from the lower level, how she has worked her way the whole way. Many come like young teenagers and they do well in the Grand Slam, and she has really learned. She’s a very smart girl and very humble like that one.
I’m sure she will have her success, because she’s extremely professional and doing like that one. So I hope when I’m helping her now that I can help. And she has a good team around her with Dan who has been with her now for two years. Also the coaches that she had before like Dimitri and the other ones did a great job.
So when you’re there in the semifinal of a Grand Slam, you know you can do it. So if you keep giving yourself the chance, it’s going to happen.
Q. How do you rate her chances in Flushing Meadows next week? I know she still has a semifinal to come but this must bode well for the Grand Slam next week.
THOMAS HOGSTEDT: Yeah, I don’t really focus on see if she can win or not. I mean, I always feel like you just focus on the next match and improving.
For me, it’s so new to work with her. This is my first tournament with her. I just enjoy the success she’s having here, and then keep on building on her. I said, for me this is a little bit new relationship. I mean, new coaching relationship. Just coming in right in a tournament. Normally you have done a long practice block before and you really work on the game.
We worked for a little bit more than one week in London, and then we met here like eight days before the tournament.
So that’s not too much, but I’m happy that she’s playing well and she, yeah, she’s in the semifinal.