Katie Boulter says she has already surpassed her expectations by making it to the last 16 of the Viking Open in Nottingham.
The 24-year-old beat world number 52 Marie Bouzkova 6-4 6-3 at her home tournament to continue her road back from a serious back injury.
Boulter had surged into the top 100 before suffering a spinal stress fracture that kept her out of top-level tournament tennis for the best part of a year, with coronavirus then delaying her comeback even further.
After a stop-start 2021, Boulter is happy with her progress.
“I think I have been nursing a little injury right before these tournaments,” she said.
“I had absolutely no expectations going into this week, but I also know the level I have been putting into the practice court day in day out, I have been working super hard.
“I have been putting in the effort and I really feel it will pay off. This week is a start, I have got a long way to go yet but it is a good result today.”
Boulter, born in nearby Leicester, considers this her home tournament and would normally stay with her family at this event.
However, the pandemic means she must stay in the bubble and not even leave her hotel.
“Of course it is going to be difficult,” she said. “But I fully understand why the measures are in place, there are bigger things going on in the world right now.
“For me it is pretty hard being back at my home tournament. But it is a privilege to have my parents and grandparents in the stand. So to even have that support means so much to be, and I am super lucky even to have that.
“It just goes to show how far we have gone in the last year, if not longer. It has been a really, really tough time for a lot of people.
“Also my family, I have hardly seen them. I am pretty sure the last time my grandparents watched me live was (at the) Copper Box a couple of years ago (in April 2019).
“So for them it is huge and it is a long time ago, it really makes the difference. I am super lucky to have them here by my side to help me win matches.”
Heather Watson set up a last-16 tie with Boulter after coming out on top when an old rivalry was renewed.
The 29-year-old spent her younger years growing up with Tara Moore and overcame her friend 6-3 4-6 6-2 to register a first win since February.
The British number two had not won since the opening round of the Australian Open but put some building blocks in place for a British summer that culminates at Wimbledon.
She said: “Tara, I have known her pretty much my whole tennis life, we are the same age and we were the top of the age group so we have gone away and played team events together since we were like nine.
“Then we both moved out to Florida together and went to school there at 12, so I have known her forever.
“She is a great player and I knew that it would be hard today, but I don’t think I have played her in about 10 years, though.
“I haven’t had the best of years but I am really happy to get through today because every match I get over the line it gives me a lot of confidence.”
On Thursday’s match-up with Boulter, she added: “I know her well, we play the Fed Cup together. She is a good player, so it will be really tough. I have got to recover straight away and do some homework.”
There was no success for British number three Harriet Dart, who squandered a good start against 14th seed Lauren Davis.
Dart won the opening set convincingly but the American hit back to win 1-6 6-3 6-4.
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