When Katie Boulter raised her arms in celebration on a packed center court, the moment felt like a long time ago.
As a teenager, Boulter was singled out as one of the brightest prospects in British tennis, but nearly two years of injury problems and false starts followed which slowed her progress. It means Thursday marked something of a latecomer since, at 25, this is the first time she’s reached the third round at a major. The fact that she did it by beating last year’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova made the wait for her worth it.
“I’ve learned to be patient,” an emotional Boulter said afterwards. “I wouldn’t say I’m a patient person, I guess I never really had the choice. It’s the reason I’m where I am today.”
She dedicated her thrilling Wimbledon second-round victory to her maternal grandmother, Jill, who died two days earlier. She was part of a family support system that has steadied Boulter through the toughest of times.
He was out of tennis for nine months with a spinal stress fracture between 2019 and 2020, before the pandemic slowed his return. She was even more frustrating because it happened just as she had made his breakthrough, reaching 82 in the world, her career high.
Her success here at Wimbledon has gone hand in hand with a host of British up-and-comers hitting new milestones this week. The ‘Emma Raducanu Effect’, as it is called, was evident in 10 Britons reaching the second round at Wimbledon for the first time since 1984. But Boulter said the long and arduous journey she has been on couldn’t look more different. to his younger compatriot. bursting onto the scene.
“I think it just shows how much work I’ve put in,” he said. “I never, ever expect things to change overnight. I don’t think that’s something that ever happens.
“Sometimes she does it miraculously. You look at Emma, she’s put in a lot of effort. Right at the beginning of her career, she was able to go out there and swing freely. I think it’s a little bit different for me where I’ve had to build momentum and some strength physically. It’s a big part of my game. I’ve finally been able to put that work in. It’s starting to pay off. I’ve got a lot more work to do, and I look forward to continuing to do it.”
Beating World No.7 Pliskova for the second time in the space of a week proved that this was no fluke either. That victory at Eastbourne was the best of her career in the rankings, but the sense of occasion on Thursday far surpassed it.
Boulter was playing on center court for the second time, but the crowd, who had seen two champions collide in Raducanu and Andy Murray on Wednesday, were clamoring for good news. She gave them that, countering her aggressive play for a 3-6 7-6 (4) 6-4 victory.
For Pliskova, this continues a terrible season, in which she only won two games in a row. She has also lost seven times to opponents outside the top 50 this year, which helped bolster Boulter’s confidence even after he blew an early break and lost the first set.
Although Pliskova served supreme throughout, hitting 13 aces and nearly 80 per cent of her first serves, Boulter kept the faith. She played a brave tie break to force a decider out of her and then, inspired by Pliskova, took the lights out of her to stay on her.
She won 20 of 24 service points in the third set and pounced on Pliskova’s late to create the chance to serve for the match. Even with the roar of the center court crowd for company, she kept her composure and a forehand down the line sealed the victory.
“I think [beating Pliskova last week] really helped,” he said. It’s easy to say that I think I can win this game, but having done it a week earlier makes all the difference. I felt like I went through that last week. I just needed to stay with her and hold serve, especially in the second set. I did it again at Eastbourne, I managed to get a chance. I feel like I had that opportunity again today.”
The shame is that Boulter will not earn ranking points here, due to the ban on Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon. This week’s momentum could have propelled her into the top 100 again.
Regardless, she has a solid chance to progress further, as she’ll play Wimbledon debutant and unlikely Serena Williams winner Harmony Tan of France next. Tan scored another upset to beat Spain’s 32nd seed Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets on Thursday and addressed the off-court controversy that has followed her since her victory over Williams.
Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch called Tan “unprofessional” on Wednesday, when she withdrew from doubles action citing a thigh injury. Korpatsch has since apologized to Tan, but she was still moved to post a congratulatory message on Instagram for the Frenchwoman’s latest win. Tan said she had no time for “drama,” not with a third round at Wimbledon to play for.
“Said [Korpatsch] I can’t play because I have something in my leg. I can’t walk very well,” Tan said. “She was angry, but that’s life…she apologized this morning. She texted me and apologized for this post and, you know, I don’t like drama. I’m not like that. So I didn’t answer.”