Healthy Boulter Making Most Of Her Opportunity

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Don’t blame Katie Boulter. She showed up at this week’s Progress Tour Women’s Championships at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, England, healthy at last – and has merely taken advantage of her opportunities.

While the pre-tournament focus was on the upper-echelon of English tennis – No. 14 Johanna Konta, No. 50 Heather Watson and No. 146 Harriet Dart – by the start of the tournament on Tuesday, each of the British Top Three were sidelined by indecision to play (Konta) or injury (Watson, Dart). Add to that, No. 254 Katie Swan, a late-edition wild card who became the tournament favorite by default, retired during her first group-play match and withdrew with a right hip injury.

On Thursday, the 374th-ranked Boulter, who missed much of the 2019 season with a spinal stress fracture after a career-best ranking of 82nd, won her third straight Premier Tier group-play victory by defeating No. 289 Jodie Burrage, 6-3, 7-6 (5). It took her six match points to put away Burrage but she did it with her third service ace. Boulter finished group play 3-0 to top Group Anne Keothavong while the loss dropped Burrage to 2-1. Both are through to Friday’s semifinals.

Next, Boulter will face her best friend, No. 643 Freya Christie (1-1), while Burrage will face tournament organizer and 569th-ranked Alicia Barnett (3-0), who finished on top of Group Elena Baltacha. Barnett defeated Christie, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 to remain undefeated.

“I knew there were going to be challenges, but it was a good match for me to play before tomorrow,” said Boulter, a native of Leicester, during a post-match interview with BBC Sport“I’ll be ready to play.”

Boulter, who is playing her first competitive matches in 19 weeks, has enjoyed her experience this week at the Progress Tour event. She said that while she’s “not match tight,” she’s used her time off the tour to stay fit and prepared. “Hopefully, it will get better and better.” 

The 23-year-old Boulter, who compiled a 9-5 win-loss record earlier this year before the coronavirus lockdown, looks forward to seeing everyone healthy as the WTA Tour readies to restart next month. “Everyone is in the same boat,” she said, quoted by the LTA website. “It’s going to be interesting to see what people look like when everyone comes back on tour and what kind of shape they’re all in, and did they put the work in. That part of it is going to be very interesting. I think everyone will definitely be appreciative to be back out there and just playing tennis and back in a competitive environment.”

Top Seed Open draws a true top seed

The Top Seed Open has landed Serena Williams. The 23-time Grand Slam champion, who previously committed to the US Open next month, saying she “cannot wait” to return to play at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flush Meadow, N.Y., will re-start her season in Lexington, Ky., at the Top Seed Open, a WTA International hard court event that begins on August 10.

The Top Seed Open will be the first match play for Williams since representing the U.S. in the Fed Cup in Everett, Wash., in February, where she beat Jelena Ostapenko and lost to Anastasija Sevastova.

Draw your own conclusions but …

Although neither has declared their intentions for next month’s US Open, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has been working out on hard courts while No. 2 Rafael Nadal has been favoring clay. Could it mean that each will restart their 2020 seasons on different continents? Draw your own conclusions for now.

Dimitrov now negative

Grigor Dimitrov, who was the first player to test positive for Covid-19 after playing in last month’s ill-fated Adria Tour in Serbia and Croatia, announced Thursday he has tested negative for the coronavirus.

EleVen by Venus – She’s back!

While Venus Williams, who recently turned 40, readies to make her World TeamTennis season debut with the Washington Kastles on Friday, her clothing line – EleVen by Venus – has a new advertising campaign. “As an athlete and a professional tennis player, I hope to inspire to get out, be active and stay healthy,” she says. “Strong, courageous, unapologetic, bold and confident” are key themes that play out during the 30-second spot. The ads are airing during World TeamTennis broadcasts on CBS Sports Network and ESPN2.

A near-perfect sweep for the Breakers

In World TeamTennis, a match consists of five sets (men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles). First to win five games wins each set and home team coach gets to pick the order of the sets for each match. So, a perfect match for a team would be achieved by scoring 25 points (1 point for each game won). On Thursday afternoon at The Greenbrier, the Orange County Breakers enjoyed a near-perfect sweep of the Vegas Rollers, winning 25-13. Gaby Dabrowski contributing to the victory with set wins in both mixed doubles and women’s doubles. She teamed with Andrea Klepac for a 5-0 shutout over Monica Puig and Kristie Ahn in women’s doubles. It was the first win of the season for Orange County.

A few minutes with Monica Puig 

Rio Olympic Games gold medalist Monica Puig of Puerto Rico is playing for the Vegas Rollers in World TeamTennis while awaiting for the WTA Tour to resume. Thus far, she has compiled a 2-2 win-loss record during the first week of the season with victories over Danielle Collins and Christine McHale while losing to Sloane Stephens and Jennifer Brady.

What they’re sharing on social media

Caroline Wozniacki / Back on the home court

Christopher Clarey / Tennis has been played in a lot of places …