An emotional Katie Boulter celebrated the win of her career against Karolina Pliskova two days after the death of her grandmother.
The British number three 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.
“I think 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 and just be strong.”
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 appears to have a golden chance to progress further with Serena Williams’ conqueror Harmony Tan up next, and will be taking inspiration from two major sporting shocks – Emma Raducanu’s US Open triumph and Leicester’s Premier League title in 2016.
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, she surprised everyone, and she played some fearless tennis. That’s what’s so impressive. I hope I can go out there and do the same thing. I’d love to do what she’s done. You never know, one day it might happen.”
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