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Headlinesn > Sports > Role of leading lady proving perfect fit for Katie Boulter ahead of Wimbledon
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Role of leading lady proving perfect fit for Katie Boulter ahead of Wimbledon

The role of leading lady is not always a comfortable one but for Katie Boulter it has proved the perfect fit.

Since winning her first WTA Tour title in Nottingham last summer to finally return to the top 100, the 27-year-old has set about showing that she belongs at the highest level.

There have been multiple wins over top-20 players, including a career-best against then-world number five Jessica Pegula, a first hard-court title in San Diego and, earlier this month, the successful defence of her Nottingham crown.

Battling a cold and in miserable weather that forced multiple delays, Boulter gritted her way through long matches, including a fierce battle against Emma Raducanu, before beating Karolina Pliskova in the final in her second match of the day.

Boulter’s rise has been the opposite of countrywoman Raducanu, with the Leicestershire player spending years scrapping away at the lower levels of the sport before making her big breakthrough.

Boulter needed a wild card to get into Wimbledon as recently as last year, but this time she will be seeded at the All England Club for the first time.

Physical frailty has been a consistent frustration for Boulter, so the tests she overcame in Nottingham were particularly satisfying.

I’m very happy with where I’m at. I’ve worked really hard for it, I’m going to keep working hard for it, and hopefully there’ll be many more wins.

Katie Boulter

“That week was definitely one of the toughest weeks for sure,” she said. “It was a lot of matches but I think the best thing for me is I came out of that week physically feeling good.

“In the past for me it’s been a struggle in terms of freshness but at the end of it I actually felt good. It’s very encouraging.

“A great start to the grass-court season, I’m very happy with where I’m at. I’ve worked really hard for it, I’m going to keep working hard for it, and hopefully there’ll be many more wins.”

Not that Boulter has yet had any opportunity to celebrate her third title – again shared with an ATP Tour success for boyfriend Alex de Minaur – heading straight to Birmingham before illness finally got the better of her.

“That’s the tennis player special isn’t it,” she said with a smile. “We live for the next day, we’re ready to go for the next tournament. I will take a moment at some point, maybe after the season, and have a look at that one.”

Boulter has had some of the most special moments of her career at Wimbledon, beating former finalist Karolina Pliskova on Centre Court in 2022 before reaching the third round again last year.

Being seeded means she knows she will not face another top-32 player until at least the third round, and she is looking to achieve another milestone in a brilliant season.

“I am very excited for it,” she said. “I wait all year round to play that one tournament but, at the same time, tennis is a 52-week sport. It doesn’t revolve always around one thing. Wimbledon’s very special and I never take that for granted every time I get to walk out there.”

Raducanu will make her return to Wimbledon after missing last year following wrist and ankle surgeries.

The 21-year-old’s career continues to be something of a roller-coaster but there have been some encouraging signs, including a positive start on the grass in Nottingham, where her improved serve was a real weapon.

Harriet Dart was the only home woman apart from Boulter to earn entry off her ranking, a sign that strength in depth remains an issue.

The unfortunate Jodie Burrage misses out through injury but Francesca Jones makes a very welcome return to Wimbledon for the first time since 2021 after her own fitness struggles.

Veteran Heather Watson and Yuriko Miyazaki are the other British women to have been awarded wild cards.

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