Katie Boulter keeps her head at Wimbledon to record career-best win over Karolina Pliskova
The British No 3 was in tears in her post-match interview on Centre Court as she dedicated the 3-6 7-6 (4) 6-4 win to her gran having learned of her passing just after Tuesday’s first-round win over Clara Burel.
“I actually had a phone call from my grandpa the night before I played,” said the 25-year-old, who is through to the third round of a grand slam for the first time.
“He didn’t mention anything, but he kind of gave me the inkling that it might be coming. I didn’t know anything until after my first match where my mum basically pulled me aside and told me after the first match.
“It’s been a tough few days for sure. I’ve tried to kind of get my emotions out and deal with the situation, try and keep my head on the tennis. I was lucky because my grandpa managed to come down from Leicester, so we could keep him company and keep supporting him at the same time.”
Boulter’s family lived the match with her from the player box, and she said of her grandmother: “Her favourite tournament was Wimbledon. That’s why it’s a special one for me. She’d watch every single match that was on the TV.
“She’s always someone who’s been right into tennis from stage one. She lives just down the road from the tennis club. That’s the tennis club that I started playing tennis at.
“Leicestershire is very close to my heart. I’ve spent a lot of time on the courts there with my grandparents and my family. It’s a lot of memories. Ones I cherish.”
The roof was surprisingly closed on Centre Court despite conditions being dry and play continuing throughout the contest on the outdoor courts.
Boulter went into the match full of confidence after a fine run of tournaments on the grass, including victory over sixth seed Pliskova, who has had a poor season, in Eastbourne last week.
The Czech, beaten by Ashleigh Barty in the final 12 months ago, recovered from 2-0 down to win the first set with a strong display of serving but Boulter began to gain control from the baseline and converted a 4-0 lead to win the second-set tie-break.
It was the British player who looked the better from the start of the deciding set and she struck the crucial blow with a break in the ninth game before convincingly serving out the victory.
Boulter narrowly lost to Aryna Sabalenka on Centre at the same stage last year, and she credited the Eastbourne victory for helping her across the line.
“It’s easy to say I believe I can win this match but to have actually gone out and done it a week before, it does make the difference,” she said. “That’s also why, when I played an OK first set, she picked up her game a lot, I felt like I went through that last week.
“I just needed to stay with her and stay on serve, especially in the second set. I did that again in Eastbourne. I managed to get a chance.
“I feel like I got that chance again today. I got a bit lucky. Hopefully I can win many more matches like that.”
Boulter’s talent has never been in doubt but staying fit consistently has so far proved impossible, which has kept her outside the top 100 for most of her career.
She may have a golden chance to progress further with Serena Williams’ conqueror Harmony Tan up next, and will take inspiration from two sporting shocks – Emma Raducanu’s US Open triumph and Leicester City’s 2016 Premier League 2016 triumph.
Boulter, a Leicester fan, said: “I hope I can take a leaf out of their book. I’ve got a lot of support from the Foxes. They were something else that year. Maybe I can hopefully create that this year.
“What (Raducanu) did was astonishing. She came out, surprised everyone and played some fearless tennis. That’s what’s so impressive. I hope I can go out there and do the same thing.”
Heather Watson is ready to seize her moment and try to make the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time.
The British No 4 needed only eight minutes to wrap up a 7-5 6-4 win over Wang Qiang after bad light had brought proceedings on Court 18 to a premature end at 9pm the night before.
It means Watson is through to round three for a fourth time at the All England Club but for the first time in five years.
And while the 30-year-old will not take world No 62 Kaja Juvan for granted, she knows how big an opportunity she has.
“I respect every single person in the draw. Everyone can play tennis. You see upsets, especially in the women’s game, just constantly now because the strength and depth is so big,” said Watson.
Harriet Dart, meanwhile, cut a frustrated figure after failing to make it a British clean sweep, the 25-year-old British No 2 slipping to a 4-6 6-3 6-1 loss against American eighth seed Jessica Pegula.
“I was obviously frustrated. I was missing so many balls, playing pretty average. Naturally I was getting frustrated,” she said.
“I don’t think beforehand I felt any different to how I have done prior to any other matches. I knew that I needed to keep my level, and I wasn’t able to do that.”