The Wimbledon wildcard Katie Boulter has pulled off a remarkable win against a former world No 1, just two days after her grandmother died.
The Leicester-born 25-year-old broke down in tears after defeating the Czech Republic’s Karolína Plíšková 3-6 7-6 (4) 6-4 on Thursday in one of the biggest upsets of the tournament. The British No 3 dedicated her second-round victory to her grandmother, Jill, a regional tennis champion, as her grandfather, Brian, and her mother, Sue, beamed with pride from the player box.
Many in the Centre Court crowd, which included Mary Berry, wept as she spoke of her heartbreak. “[Jill’s] favourite tournament was Wimbledon,” she later told reporters. “That’s why it’s a special one for me. She’d watch every single match that was on the TV.
“She’s always someone who’s been right into tennis from stage one. She lives just down the road from the tennis club. That’s the tennis club that I started playing tennis at – Leicestershire is very close to my heart.
“I’ve spent a lot of time on the courts there with my grandparents and my family. It’s a lot of memories, ones I cherish.”
Boulter’s win of her career came after she triumphed over France’s Clara Burel on Tuesday night. She told reporters that she did not find out about her grandmother’s death until after the first-round match.
“I actually had a phone call from my grandpa the night before I played,” she said. “He didn’t mention anything, but he kind of gave me the inkling that it might be coming. I didn’t know anything until after my first match, where my mum basically pulled me aside and told me.”
She told how it had been a “tough few days” but said she was “lucky” to have a supportive family and boyfriend, Alex de Minaur, an Australian tennis player playing in the tournament.
“I’ve tried to kind of get my emotions out and deal with the situation, try and keep my head on the tennis,” she said. “I was lucky because my grandpa managed to come down from Leicester, and so we could keep him company and keep supporting him at the same time.”
Boulter, who is from the village of Woodhouse Eaves, Leicestershire, was five years old when she began playing tennis, following in the footsteps of her mother, a former international player.
She first represented Great Britain aged eight and went on to win the Lemon Bowl tournament in Rome for European girls under 12 when she was 11 years old.
However, her senior career has been affected by illness and injuries. She has suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome, which was triggered by a virus she contracted in 2014, and had a serious back injury in 2019, the year after breaking into the world’s top 100 players.
Her victory against Plíšková came on another successful day for British players, with Heather Watson and Liam Broady also winning their matches. They join the British men’s No 1, Cameron Norrie, in the third round.
Patrick Hutchinson, an author and activist who was notably photographed carrying a far-right protester to safety during a Black Lives Matter protest in London in 2020, was seen in the Centre Court’s royal box on Thursday.