Nottingham | Boulter gets past Dart, as Watson also wins on Day 1 on grass

Brits kicked off the action at the Rothesay Open in Nottingham on a rain-interrupted Monday, with both Katie Boulter and Heather Watson winning their 1st-round matches, while Yuriko ‘Lily’ Miyazaki and Emily Appleton both lost their openers, and Emma Raducanu is scheduled to play on Tuesday.

I feel like she played really well, came out firing and I did so well to stay strong, fight and get my way through it. Half of tennis is keeping your cool, and staying patient. I’m very proud of the way I handled today, and I stayed calm the whole time, and that’s really what won me the match, I think. That’s what half these matches are. I know I’ve got to improve each day, and I’m just really happy with my first grass court win. Katie Boulter

Boulter is the defending champion at the WTA 250 tournament, and opened against fellow Brit Harriet Dart in a repeat of last year’s quarter-final encounter, which the British No 1 won in straight sets.

On this occasion, though, Boulter was made to battle harder for over 3 hours to defeat her teammate, 6-7(5) 6-4 7-5, in a match full of fireworks from Britain’s No 2.

“Full credit to her, that was an absolute battle and she’s an incredible grass court player,” Boulter said. “I just tried to fight and stay in the points because she played some seriously good stuff. I’m really happy to be through.”

With both players battling against the cold, windy conditions, the opening set saw 8 breaks of serve, before Dart closed out 4 straight points from 5-4 down in the tiebreak to edge ahead.

Boulter raised her game in the second, breaking on the opening game, and losing just 4 points off her first serve to draw level.

Dart battled back from 1-3 down in the decider, but as the pair past the three-hour mark to 5-5, the defending champion edged in front once again.

The British No 1 hit a brace of winners against the Dart serve, and capitalised on an error from an attempted drop-shot before she saw out the victory on her 3rd match point.

“Coming into this tournament as defending champion has mixed emotions,” admitted Boulter, who has significant points to defend here. “I have such great memories here, but it’s also a lot of pressure – it’s a totally different ball game.

“It’s the first time I’ve come to a tournament as defending champion and I felt like today’s match was really tough and it was a good level.

“It’s been a long journey and this is where it kick-started. I love coming back and that special feeling it gives me – even walking out on that court today, it’s been a while since I’ve felt that. It doesn’t go unnoticed that I love every minute I’m out there.”

Dart also has made significant progress since their last encounter, rising back into the Top 100 this season, and she showed great resilience in coming from a break down in the decider and holding a 5-4 lead, only for Boulter to push through.

“I feel like she played really well, came out firing and I did so well to stay strong, fight and get my way through it,” Boulter said. “Half of tennis is keeping your cool, and staying patient. I’m very proud of the way I handled today, and I stayed calm the whole time, and that’s really what won me the match, I think.

“That’s what half these matches are. I know I’ve got to improve each day, and I’m just really happy with my first grass court win.

“It’s never easy being in this position. We come together with the Billie Jean King Cup a lot of times and we are friends, so to go out there and both put our hearts on the line in front of each other is tough.”


Harriet Dart battled back in the decider but then lost to Katie Boulter on Day 1 in Nottingham

© Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA

To her credit, Boulter ignored the noise of Dart giving the umpire an earful over a disputed line call in the second set.

Furiously, Dart told umpire Kelly Rask that she would ‘bet £50,000’ that a Boulter shot to the baseline, over-ruled as in, was, in fact, out, and there was only a curt handshake from the pair at the net after the defending champion progressed.

Boulter will now play either Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic or Rebecca Marino from Canada as her quest for back-to-back Nottingham titles marches on.

The 28-year-old knows better than anyone how much of an impact a strong run at this tournament can have, and, this week, she has had the chance to reflect on her journey in the last 12 months.

“It’s a moment that stops me in my track a bit,” she explained looking back at her title win in 2023. “This time last year was the first time I was handed British No 1, and I remember it so vividly because I wasn’t happy with my ranking.

“I was just trying to improve my ranking, and get as many points as I could, but this time I’m coming in with a great ranking by my name, and I’m proud of that number.”


Heather Watson celebrated a return to grass with a 3-set win over Kayla Day on Monday at the WTA 250 event in Nottingham

© Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA

In the match that opened the programme at the Lexus Nottingham Tennis Centre, Watson got off to a winning start against America’s Kayla Day, 4-6 6-0 6-4.

Wild-carded into the main draw, Watson is relishing a return to grass in the place where she reached the semi-finals last year.

“I couldn’t wait to get back on the grass this year,” she said on court after her match. “The first day of training I felt at home, I felt I knew my identity as a player again, and it’s just such a joy to play at home.”

After falling behind an early break, rain brought action to a halt after just 3 games, and, when the two returned, Watson looked far more settled.

While the American was able serve out the first set, Watson was on the ascent and quickly bagged the initial break in the second, as Day showed signs that she was struggling with the conditions.

Having won 7 straight games to level the score at a set apiece, Watson closed out the win with a break at 5-4 in the decider.


Qualifier Lucrezia Stefanini came from 3-1 down in the third set to upset No 7 seed Zhu Lin in the 1st-round of the Rothesay Open.

WTAtennis.com

Britain’s Lily Miyazaki, though, lost her opening match against Czech qualifier Linda Fruhvirtova, 6-4 7-5, while Emily Appleton’s run in Nottingham through qualifying to the main draw also came to an end at the hands of Australia’s Kimberly Birrell, 6-3 7-5.

Appleton was the sole Brit emerging from qualifying after Samantha Murray Sharan and Sonay Karal both lost in the 2nd-round, and Amelia Rajecki in the 1st.

In other main draw Nottingham results on Monday, former World No 1 and 2016 champion Karolina Pliskova defeated Alycia Parks from the USA, 6-4 6-4; Australia’s Daria Saville upset Clara Burel, the No 4 seed from France, 6-3 6-3; Italian qualifier Lucrezia Stefanini came from 1-3 down in the third set to upset 7th-seeded Zhu Lin from China, 7-6(4) 3-6 7-5 in nearly 3 hours; and France’s Diane Parry was a 6-3 6-2 winner over Cristina Bucsa from Spain.



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