On Saturday, Katie Boulter will compete for a place in the second week at Wimbledon for the first time in her career. Her source of inspiration? Emma Raducanu.
“What she did was amazing,” Boulter said on Thursday. “She came out, she surprised everyone, and she played tennis fearlessly. That’s what’s so impressive. I hope I can go there and do the same. I’d love to do what she did. You never know, on one day it can happen.”
That newfound faith has spread across British tennis. Six years older than Raducanu, Boulter has much more tour-level experience and a slew of serious injuries under her belt. But like the rest of the British pack at Wimbledon, unnamed Andy Murray, she never came close to achieve what Raducanu did in her debut season†
Raducanu, 19, has since been thrust into the limelight and had well-documented teething problems adjusting to the tour. Although she was unable to match her amazing New York exploits at Wimbledon this week, and fell in the second round to Caroline Garciaits impact has been felt on a large scale.
Just as 100,000 Brits started playing recreational tennis in the three months after Raducnu’s US Open victory, so too has the elite results. Raducanu’s leap into British tennis is remarkable, with 10 reaching the second round in singles at the All England Club this week, the most in 38 years. Boulter is also one of four Britons to make it to the third round, a feat only achieved four times in the past 25 years.
as Boulter or Liam Broady can beat Heather Watson and Cam Norrie, there will be more than two British players in the second week at Wimbledon for the first time since 1979.
The irony is that neither Raducanu nor Murray, the two most successful active British players, will be joining them. But both great champions have played their part in the rise of this British group, says Boulter’s coach Jeremy Bates. “You’ve got Andy who’s won a bunch of slams, who’s been there for the last 15 years,” Bates says. “Undoubtedly, the familiarity with the men who were around Andy during that time is waning.
“The girls know Emma really well, of course. When you know someone who’s at the top, you learn from what they do on a daily basis, you understand more about them, and I think of course there’s an unconscious increase in faith.”
Former world No. 4 Johanna Konta, who retired from tennis late last year, had the potential to widen the gap between Raducanu and the rest of Britain’s women on tour. While the difference in ranking remains large, some of the more experienced players have suddenly found a way to achieve long-cherished goals. Watson, 30, reached her first-ever fourth round at a Grand Slam — 10 years after her third-round debut.
She said the momentum among Britons this week had helped her cross the line, and mentioned a newfound camaraderie – born of lockdown – in the group. “When I see them doing well, I’m definitely encouraged,” she said, saying she’s seen every British draw at Wimbledon this week.
“I think what brought us together during Covid was we had those Battle of the British tournaments. I feel like everyone has come a lot closer since then. I think there’s a lot of credit for those events that happened in the form of people and people who come together and support each other.”
In addition to Wimbledon, other remarkable results have been achieved this year. Boulter also defeated Karolina Pliskova in Eastbourne. Harriet Dart ousted former top five player Elina Svitolina from Indian Wells and broke into the top 100 for the first time this season.
Katie Swan defeated former US Open champion Sloane Stephens on grass in Hamburg. Ryan Peniston punched way above his weight during the grass court season, beating French Open finalist Casper Ruud and reaching two ATP quarterfinals on his first attempt. Rising star Jack Draper, 20, racked up recent wins over top-15 players Diego Schwartzman and Taylor Fritz, and has won four Challenger titles this year.
Despite Draper’s run at Wimbledon being cut short, he said Raducanu’s breakthrough made him feel ready to make his own. “What [Raducanu] last year was incredible, it was crazy, and I think it gave a lot of British tennis players a huge belief in themselves that they could do something similar,” he said ahead of the tournament. “I think we’re all grateful to her for the giving that motivation and drive to want to kick ourselves.”