IIt’s a strange thought, but if it wasn’t for the pandemic, Britain’s leading players might not have had such success at this year’s event. Wimbledon. After 10 Britons reached the second round, the best since 1984, Katie Boulter and Liam Broady will be aiming for a place in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time, looking to join Heather Watson and Cameron Norrie who are already there. after Friday’s wins.
At the start of 2020, when the pandemic began, British players were brought down by circumstance rather than design. The only place they could train once the first set of restrictions were lifted was the Nationals Tennis Center in Roehampton. Once maligned and seen as an expensive white elephant, it has once again become a place of hope for Britain’s top players.
As Andy Murray offered advice and practice with anyone who wanted it, camaraderie grew. Battle of the Brits tournamenthosted by Jamie Murray, gave competitive tennis when they needed it most.
The only disappointment for Boulter in particular is that she won’t be returning to one of the two main courts. he reveled in the defeat of Karolína Plíšková on the center court, last year’s finalist, in the previous round. Instead, he will be the first on Court No. 2, while Broady will play on Court No. 1 against Boulter’s friend, Australian Alex de Minaur.
The 17 British players in this year’s main draw was the most since 2001, and although 10 were wild cards, the success rate was impressive. It was uplifting to see a group of home players supporting each other and feeding off each other. And equally encouraging is the fact that it is largely a group of new names.
Boulter’s revival was particularly remarkable. After falling out of the top 100 in 2019 after suffering a stress fracture in her back, she has had to be patient, which she admits is not in her nature. When Emma Raducanu won the US Open out of nowhere, it was easy to think, “That should have been me. Instead, she said to herself, “Why not me?”
“One hundred percent, yes,” she said when asked if she was inspired when Raducanu won his first slam. “What she did was amazing. I think everyone in this room knows how incredible what she did. It doesn’t come every day. She came out, surprised everyone and played fearless tennis. That’s what’s so impressive. I hope I can go there and do the same. I would love to do what she does. You never know, one day it might happen.
“I’ll take it one step at a time.” I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I knew I put in the work to win some laps here. I just hope I can keep it up, keep up the pace. I’m just looking forward to going out there and enjoying myself and having a smile on my face. I don’t think it’s better than playing on center court and getting my first win there. In the end, it will give me a lot of energy to go through many more rounds, hopefully many more tournaments.” Boulter will face France’s Harmony Tan, who stunned Serena Williams in the first round.
The left-handed Broady is all smiles after the All England Club and he fully deserves his chance. At 28, it took Broady a while to reach this stage, and if there were ranking points at this year’s edition, he would surely be in the top 100 for the first time.
The banter between Broady and Andy Murray is a regular source of amusement for tennis Twitterati, but Broady also said the former world number one has been an inspiration and a major factor in his success of late. “Andy was one of my harshest critics, but also one of the greatest mentors I had,” he said. “It’s easy for people to say, ‘You need to believe more, you’re a great player.’ But when one of the greatest players of all time tells you that, it carries a lot more weight and hits a lot harder.”
Rafael Nadal, Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff continue their title bids on Saturday, but if Boulter or Broady join Watson and Norrie in the fourth round, it will be an unlikely week for British tennis.