British number one Johanna Konta should have been battling it out at Wimbledon this summer, carrying the hopes of a nation on her shoulders.
But with the tournament cancelled due to coronavirus – and Britain only just emerging from lockdown – she has been trying to perfect her other passion instead.
Konta has told how she is a keen amateur chef who has been cooking up her storm for her photographer boyfriend for the past three months.
The 29-year-old says she has been treating him to roast dinners, pork belly and steaks with homemade sauces. And there have only been a couple of disasters in ‘Konta’s Kitchen’ – as it is now known.
‘I have had things fly onto the ceiling and onto the cupboard doors – I have had some real disasters but I try to take it in my stride,’ she said in an interview.
‘I was trying to make some cinnamon doughnuts [but] I overheated the oil so it cooked on the outside and was raw in the inside – I had a proper meltdown and had to go into my room and have a little cry because I was craving a doughnut so badly and I didn’t have enough ingredients to try again. So I had a moment. I haven’t tried to make those again since.’
Konta reached the semi finals at SW19 in 2017 and has also reached the last four of the Australian and French Opens. She admitted the cancellation of Wimbledon had been tough and she had found it hard to find the motivation to train in her living room during lockdown.
But she has been hosting a podcast and meeting top chefs including Marcus Waring and Clare Smyth for the BBC, and said spending time in her kitchen at her flat in London had helped.
She lives there with boyfriend Jackson Wade, a photographer who took these pictures exclusively for the Mail, and their two dachshunds, Bono – named after the U2 frontman, and Gizmo, a new addition to the family who is just five months old.
‘When the decision came to cancel it – I think everyone was expecting the cancellation, but that didn’t make it any less sad,’ she said.
‘It was for a very good cause so it is hard to argue with the logic but as professional athlete who trains to play on the big stages…this being my home slam, this is the biggest tournament I play in the year – I am very sad.
‘Interestingly though I am just as busy now as I would have been if it hadn’t been cancelled.
‘Cooking is a big passion of mine. I am starting a project called Konta’s Kitchen – I am still fleshing out the particulars but basically I love food, I love real food, I love cooking real food – I enjoy the process of it.
‘I have cooked a lot of recipes over the last the last three years, so I am actually putting together the ones I really like and the ones that I think work, so that will come in time as well.’
Konta, who appeared on Celebrity Bake Off earlier this year, also enjoys baking cakes and regularly cooks up batches of muffins for her team.
‘I have always grown up in a household where everything is OK in moderation so I bake cakes and muffins and meringue,’ she said.
‘But I definitely cook more than I bake now – the need to cook is now obviously much more pressing, we need to eat at home.
‘As an athlete I have to pick my moments when I can really enjoy something and when I need to eat more for fuel but for sure there is definitely space – and I need it it my life – for something I enjoy so much.’
She said Mr Wade had been ‘kicked out of the kitchen’.
‘He doesn’t enjoy it as much as I do – he would cook out of necessity whereas I cook out of enjoyment. It is mainly my domain. I started cooking about the same we got together so he is lucky, he has been enjoying some wonderful meals for three years now.’
And she admitted she also fancied trying her hand at presenting and was keen to follow in the footsteps of idol Sue Barker.
Konta joined the veteran presenter on the BBC’s Wimbledon show this month.
‘Presenting is something I could imagine myself doing but like with the cooking and the podcast, I need more experience and that is what I am trying to get right now to polish off and grow those skills – it will take time.’
Barker, now 62, was a former world number 3 with 15 singles titles to her name, before joining the BBC.
Konta now has her eye set on Wimbledon 2021. ‘It has been my goal to win ever since I was a little girl,’ she said.