Katie Boulter and Liam Broady aiming to make history at Wimbledon with 43-year first for Brits
For once British tennis is not relying on a few stars, with the understudies shining on the big stage despite early exits for Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu.
Norrie and Watson both reached the last 16 at a grand slam for the first time on Friday having repeatedly knocked at the door, with 30-year-old Watson delighted to beat Kaja Juvan 7-6 (6) 6-2 while Norrie was clinical in a 6-4 6-1 6-0 victory over Steve Johnson.
If either Boulter or Broady joins them, it will be the first time since 1979 that Britain has had three or more players through to the last 16 in singles.
Boulter achieved arguably the standout result of a strong collective home showing this year by defeating last July’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova in the second round.
That she did so two days after the death of her grandmother speaks volumes about Boulter’s attitude and resilience in the face of adversity.
The 25-year-old has had plenty of that to deal with in the form of a fatigue illness that stopped her in her tracks as a teenager and injuries that have been frustratingly frequent.
A spinal stress fracture in 2019 set her back just when she seemed to have established herself in the top 100, while she was sidelined for three months of this year with a leg injury.
“I think every time you lose a tennis match or every time something happens in your life, you do get a little bit of a reality check,” said Boulter. “I feel like I’m the type of person that will come back stronger no matter what happens.
“I’m lucky to have such a great support around me, and that does make a huge, huge difference. I’ve got great people, great boyfriend, just a great team who push me every single day.
“Without that network, I’m not sure where I would be. But ultimately I am a fighter and I am standing here today having overcome a lot of those issues. I just hope that they will at some point go away.”
Former British number one Jeremy Bates has worked with Boulter since she was 17 and currently shares coaching duties with Serbian Biljana Veselinovic.
“I think it’s clear to everybody that she perseveres,” said Bates. “That’s one of her greatest qualities and that’s why she’s come back from so many injuries, and every time she’s come back she’s come back stronger.
“She’s always wanted to be that tennis player and it’s evident to see the passion when she goes out on court.”
Boulter has surprisingly been shunted out to Court Two for her third-round clash with France’s Harmony Tan, who is also having her best grand slam run after beating Serena Williams in round one.
“I actually watched her match against Serena,” said Boulter. “She makes it very difficult. There’s a reason she’s beaten some really good players this week. It’s going to be a tough battle. But ultimately I’m just going to go out and enjoy myself and play some good tennis hopefully.”
It has been a great week on court in the Boulter household, with boyfriend Alex De Minaur also through to the third round after beating Britain’s Jack Draper on Thursday.
And next the Australian takes on Broady, who will not hold it against Boulter if she cheers against him.
“I won’t judge her if she sits in Demon’s (De Minaur’s) box,” said Broady. “She kind of has to, doesn’t she?”
De Minaur played an excellent match to beat Draper but Broady will go into the contest full of confidence after his five-set victory over 12th seed Diego Schwartzman.
“I fancy myself against anybody, to be honest,” said Broady. “I actually played Demon in Eastbourne last year. I know his game pretty well. He’s a fantastic player. He’s very good on the grass. The deeper he goes in the tournament, the harder he would be to stop.”
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