Katie Boulter is savouring a “special moment” after becoming the latest British tennis player to break into the world’s top 100.
While Johanna Konta and Heather Watson have struggled this season, the group of young British women coming up behind have all made big strides, and none more than 22-year-old Boulter from Leicestershire.
Ranked 199 at the start of the season, a run to her second WTA Tour quarter-final at the Tianjin Open in China last week saw Boulter climb to 96.
She told Press Association Sport: “It’s a pretty special moment for me. I’ve worked so hard to get to this stage and I’ve finally achieved one of the many goals that I’ve been trying to achieve. It gives me a lot of confidence going into 2019.”
Lower-tier titles in Portugal and Japan earlier in the year were the springboard and her milestones over the last few months have included a first grand slam victory at Wimbledon, over Veronica Cepede Royg, and her first two wins against top-50 opponents.
The second of those, and the best win of her career, came in the first round in Tianjin when she defeated 42nd-ranked Maria Sakkari, and a second-round victory against Barbora Krejcikova secured her top-100 breakthrough.
Boulter has been on the verge of the top 100 for several months but insisted it has not been too much on her mind, saying: “That’s tennis. You’ve got to defend points at the same time and I spent a bit of time defending and not gaining.
“But I had a really good couple of weeks here in China and I wasn’t defending too much, and I’m really pleased with the way it’s come about.
“Of course you know you’re going to be playing for the top 100. People tell you, it’s hard to avoid actually. The match that I thought was going to get me to the top 100 was the first round but someone else did really well and that made me about 100.
“So I knew going into the second-round match, I needed to win. I got tight in the second set and tight in the third but finding a way through those moments I think is what makes you.”
The Sakkari victory was certainly one to make people take notice and in the quarter-finals Boulter won the first set against world number six Karolina Pliskova before losing 5-7 6-0 6-3.
Boulter said: “Sakkari is a top player. She’s beaten people that I dream of beating and hopefully one day I’ll do that myself.
“I played some tremendous tennis against Pliskova. Unfortunately I’m not used to playing at that level so to sustain it is difficult for me. I would have said the same thing a year ago maybe about playing people (in the top) 200.
“It was a really good experience for me overall and I look forward to playing her again and hopefully I can take the match this time. I know where I need to get to and that makes it a lot easier.”
Boulter’s achievements are all the more impressive given she missed the whole of the 2015 season because of a fatigue illness and this is the first year she has been able to do any work in the gym.
Her top priority now is ensuring she makes the main draw for the Australian Open in January, her debut slam outside of Wimbledon, and that will dictate whether she plays again this season or not.
She said: “I’m very close to it and I think I may have done it but I don’t want to take any chances.
“It would be absolutely huge to make Australian Open. To play the main draw is a huge step up for me but I know I can win matches as I showed at Wimbledon.
“But it’s being able to do it all year round that gives you the chance to play at four grand slams rather than one. It’s a huge opportunity.”