In the three years since Katie Boulter last played at Wimbledon, the Briton has experienced enough frustration for a career. She had just broken into the world’s top 100 when a stress fracture in her back put her out for six months and when she finally felt ready to return, the coronavirus pandemic kept her away for longer.
On Monday, as the sun finally broke through the clouds, the 24-year-old made good on her wildcard as she saw off the American qualifier Danielle Lao 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round. The win will lift Boulter back inside the top 200 to about the No 182 mark, 100 places short of her career-high ranking, achieved in February 2019. But the personal significance of her victory, even against a player ranked 239 and playing Wimbledon for the first time, was clear for everyone on court 17 to see.
“I’m super-proud of myself today,” she said. “It definitely meant a lot to me. I worked so hard behind the scenes, which most of you don’t see. So hard every single day. I’ve been through some really tough moments. I found a way through them because I’ve had some amazing people around me. Ultimately those wins that are in your home court, it means so much.”
Her reward is a potential show-court clash against the No 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, someone she has played once before. “I’ve got nothing to lose and I’m just going to enjoy the moment,” she said.
There was defeat for two British women, although Katie Swan and Jodie Burrage both had their hands full against higher-ranked, far more experienced opposition.
Swan lost 6-3, 6-4 to former US Open runner-up Madison Keys, while Burrage, a wildcard entrant, was outplayed 6-2, 6-1 by another American, Lauren Davis.
However, the 22-year-old Swan won three matches to qualify for the main draw and said she would build on her efforts in the coming months. “I think coming through qualies is the best thing I’ve done in tennis,” she said. “I can take a lot of confidence from beating three really good players and my body held up well.”