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Hurrah! The fresh hopes of Wimbledon have arrived

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Katie Boulter beat former world number one Karolina Pliskova - Heathcliff O'Malley
Katie Boulter beat former world number one Karolina Pliskova – Heathcliff O’Malley

Wimbledon has been starting to look a little bleak for a while this year – what with Emma Radukanu knocked out and Andy Murray and his bionic hip faltered in the second round against American slugger John Isner. And that seemed to be the case: our two past Grand Slam winners were gone and Cameron Norrie, who finished 9th, was the sole focus of the nation. Many feared that we were doomed to obsess over the Center Court roof shenanigans until Wimbledon came to a merciful end.

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But then, out of nowhere, a hitherto little-known 25-year-old boy from Leicestershire named Kathy Boulter who made one of the biggest defeats of the tournament, beating former world No. 1 and last year’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova. Boulter, the 5ft 11in wildcard ranked No. 118 in the world, returned from a set to crush her Czech opponent. Wimbledon is filled with new hope.

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That wasn’t the only reason we kept watching. Friday native of Guernsey Heather Watson made it to the final 16 for the first time in her career. The 30-year-old, who won the mixed doubles title in 2016 but struggled in her singles career, once again seemed destined to fall steeplechase in the first week, having previously reached the third round three times. She dropped to 121st in the world rankings and is celebrating her 12th Wimbledon this year.

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However, she beat Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan in straight sets to earn her place in the coveted second week of Wimbledon. It was a magical end to several difficult days when she was forced to play singles every day of the first five after her late matches kept being stalled due to poor lighting. “They’re trying to kill me,” she joked about the Wimbledon bosses after she had to return to the court after just four hours of sleep to play Juwan.

Boulter had a rather gloomy week. In her post-match interview on Thursday, she dedicated her triumph to her beloved grandmother Jill, a regional tennis champion who passed away just two days earlier. Her family did not break the news to Boulter until after her victory in the first round. Mary Berry, who was in the royal box, wiped away a tear.

Boulter’s boyfriend, 23-year-old Australian Alex De Minaur, advanced to the third round on the same day. During an interview in court after his victory (ironically over budding Briton Jack Draper) 19th Sid praised his girlfriend, saying, “Before we talk about my match, can we just talk about Katie Boulter today?”

If that sounds like writing a movie script, then it’s already done. The dubious 2004 romantic comedy Wimbledon, starring Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst, tells the story of a British journeyman tennis player who falls in love with a fellow pro and wins the final. However, Hollywood misunderstands that we don’t actually need our tennis heroes to win; just give a glimmer of hope.

Perhaps it’s because the tournament always coincides with that time of year when the nascent summer seems to turn into an eternal drizzle. Or that in July the first voices begin to be heard that half a year has already passed. Wimbledon is critical to our collective national psyche – as long as we stake on the game.

Boulter grew up in the Leicestershire village of Woodhouse Eaves (she still lives in the county), where she began playing at the age of four against her older brother James. Her grandfather, Brian, who was in the stands to watch her win, is an inventor who made a name for himself by designing anti-theft tags used in clothing stores. “He’s literally my idol,” Boulter recently said.

Her mother, Sue, is a former British junior international who captained Leicestershire to the County Cup twice before becoming a manager. “When Katie was tiny, she would wait at the edge of the court while I practiced, desperate to try,” recalls Sue, who is divorced from Boulter’s father, David.

She won the first tournament she entered: Leicestershire Under 10 when she was five. At the age of eight, she was chosen to represent Great Britain among juniors, and in 2011, at the age of 14, she reached the final of the prestigious Orange Bowl tournament in the USA. As a teenager, she was also diagnosed with chronic fatigue, a condition that made her difficult to get out of bed for some time and haunted her senior career. On top of this, in April 2019, she suffered a stress fracture in her spine during a match, which kept her out for the rest of the year. “I’ve had enough adversity to last a long time,” she told an interviewer last year.

Heather Watson, who now lives in south London, must learn to be resilient. Her mother Michelle from Papua New Guinea was in the stands on Friday to watch her daughter win, and Heather spoke about the racism and death threats she subsequently faced as a player.

Heather Watson celebrates victory in the third round match against Slovenia's Kai Juvan - Matthew Childs
Heather Watson celebrates victory in the third round match against Slovenia’s Kai Juvan – Matthew Childs

“This is so disappointing and sad. This usually happens when I lose a match, and mostly because of the men who bet on me to win. They choose my race,” she told one newspaper.

She began playing at the age of seven at her local club in Guernsey, of which both her parents were members (she has a half-brother, Adam, and two half-sisters, Stephanie and Julie). As a child, I followed them downstairs and just watched them,” she recalls. However, not everyone was happy – Watson was a promising swimmer, and her father Ian, with whom she is close, told how “they were distraught.” at the swim club when I decided to focus on tennis.”

At 12, she moved to Florida with Michelle to train at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, whose alumni include Maria Sharapova and Andre Agassi. In 2009, at the age of 17, she became the US Open girls’ singles champion. forced her to miss two months of play and denied her a potential seed at Wimbledon.

Since then, headlines have tended to be about her personal life as well as her tennis (despite winning nine titles, both in singles and doubles), as she dated British tennis players Phil Stevens and Lloyd Glasspool. She had a relationship with Irish EFL striker Courtney Duffus, whom she met in the 2019 Wimbledon final, but their split was confirmed in May.

But adversity also opened the eyes of Watson and Boulter. Outside of tennis, both are known as avid Love Island fans. Watson has described herself as “obsessed” with TikTok and regularly posts videos of her fitness and dance routines. Boulter plays the piano and has volunteered at Age UK during the lockdown, encouraging seniors stuck at home to offer support. She is also an active fan of her local football team, Leicester City, who are no strangers to fabulous victories themselves.

As her profile climbed to number 3 in the UK and Watson became number 4, she modeled for Nike, appeared in Vogue, and in 2019 signed with sports management company KIN Partners, whose accounting Also listed is David Beckham. Watson, who is sponsored by New Balance, collaborates with the British Fashion Council.

While Watson parted ways with her touring coach, Alex Ward, earlier in the year, and it’s unclear who now leads her team, Boulter is coached by the likes of Jeremy Bates and Nigel Sears, father of Andy Murray’s wife Kim.

And yet, before we all get too carried away, it’s worth noting that both players are in uncharted territory right now. Today, Boulter will face Frenchwoman Harmony Tan, who knocked out Serena Williams in the first round. On Sunday, Watson will play No. 97 Jules Niemeyer of Germany.

There are other British names as well. Norrie is also in the fourth round, while wildcard Liam Brody faces none other than Boulter’s boyfriend, De Minor, in the third.

But after their career wins, it’s Watson and Boulter who will be rooting for the nation this weekend. There are fresh hopes for SW19.

Additional reporting by Lilia Cebuay

Tennis dress envy: why everyone is talking about how Emma and Katie look on the court

Emma Raducanu and Katie Boulter may have had very different results this week, but as everyone watched the two Brits, one thing that didn’t go away was that they were wearing the same tennis dress. As you would expect from players of this level, the NikeCourt Dri-FIT is an extraordinary piece of clothing. Crucially, it combines cutting-edge technology with a breathable top and a retro-cut skirt, reminiscent of the flirty country club tennis dresses women wore in the 70s.

Emma Raducanou in the Nike Mandatory Tennis Dress - Heathcliff O'Malley
Emma Radukanou wearing the mandatory Nike tennis dress – Heathcliff O’Malley

And yes, the cut creates a very nice silhouette, but the design is clearly performance-oriented first and foremost. Taped vertical seams on the front mimic the look of a corset (and provide support) without being restrictive, while stretch mesh at the top of the chest provides much-needed ventilation and also gives players extra room to move while serving. and salvos. Dri-FIT technology wicks sweat away from the skin, which will be even more important if Boulter is still in the tournament when the heat hits London next week. The dress does not come with underwear, although most players tend to pair it with white cycling shorts.

In terms of fashion, the asymmetrical pleated skirt is probably the most memorable part of the design – it gets short in the front and the pleats widen in the back as the players run after the ball, making it somewhat reminiscent of the Miu Miu mini that every young fashionista wanted to wear last summer. …


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