Wimbledon | Boulter wins to meet defending champ Rybakina

British No 1 Katie Boulter battled her way into the Wimbledon 3rd-round for the second straight year, and set up a meeting with defending champion Elena Rybakina.

It definitely wasn't easy out there but I kept backing myself and telling myself to go for it. It paid off. She is a top player and I expected her to come back with an even better game. She definitely did and made me play more balls. I tried to be as aggressive as possible and managed to do that at the start of the third set. Katie Boulter

The last British woman standing in the singles draw recovered from a second-set wobble to beat Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova, 6-0 3-6 6-3, on Court 12 on Thursday, watched by her Australian partner Alex De Minaur and taking an hour and 43 minutes to advance.

“I think it’s a super great opportunity for me,” Boulter said later. “I’ve got nothing to lose. She’s clearly the defending champion for a reason. I’m going to have a swing and go for it.

“I’ve got a lot of tennis behind me. It’s time for me to test my skills against an incredible champion.”

Despite Tomova being ranked 10 places below Boulter at 99 in the world, she appeared as a dangerous opponent having upset 27th seed Bernarda Pera from America in her opening round to record her first Top 30 of her career.

Boulter bolted out of the gates with an aggressive return game to snag the first of 3 breaks of serve, and after just 18 minutes she was 4-0 up and seemingly cruising into round 3.

With British fans packed high in the stands, Tomova’s limited support came from her coach and sister on the sidelines as Boulter, serving with great vigour, set up a set point, and she delivered the bagel with a delightful chip to the roar of the crowd after only 27 minutes.

Beware of bagel sets, though, as they so often rebound unless your name is Iga Swiatek, and Tomova did just that, finally getting herself on the board in the second set and pinching a break of the previously impeccable Boulter serve.

The British No 1 struck back with a glorious winner, but Tomova was now well in her stride, having found her range and switching her tactics by changing the angles to unsettle her opponent, and the Bulgarian levelled the match with the loss of 3 games.

Katie Boulter dominated the decider against Viktoriya Tomova (R) to advance at Wimbledon

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

If Boulter is feeling the pressure on her 5th Wimbledon main draw appearance after replacing Emma Raducanu as Britain’s No 1, it isn’t evident as she appears to be embracing her new status with open arms.

Boulter held to love in the first game of the third set and, despite Tomova saving 2 break points in her opening service game, the British No 1 conjured up another break to edge herself in front.

The tennis gods clearly were smiling on her as she benefitted from back-to-back net cords which helped her break early for 2-0 in the decider.

In that second game, Boulter’s ball crept over the net by mere inches, prompting Tomova to smack a ball against the back of the court, and, after the second, the Bulgarian was left glaring at her coach in disbelief, then grimacing wryly.

Having regained her composure, Boulter re-asserted herself again to dominate down the stretch with her serve and powerful groundstrokes.

It could have got even worse for Tomova, but she was able to save a break point and win her first game of the decider and stay in the match at 3-1.

Ultimately, though, it was not enough for Tomova, although Boulter still needed to come out on the right end of an epic 24-shot rally before converting her 3rd match point with her 36th winner of the day to wrap up an impressive win.

The crowd roared with delight as Boulter broke into a beaming smile, relief at eventually getting over the line following a tense service game clearly visible.

“It definitely wasn’t easy out there but I kept backing myself and telling myself to go for it. It paid off,” said Boulter, who hit 37 winners. “She is a top player and I expected her to come back with an even better game. She definitely did and made me play more balls.

“I tried to be as aggressive as possible and managed to do that at the start of the third set.”

The 26-year-old, who won her first WTA Tour title in Nottingham this summer, had only reached the 3rd-round once before the 2023 Championships, which came last year.

Elena Rybakina won her 9th straight match at Wimbledon when she beat Alizé Cornet on the Centre Court on Thursday afternoon

© Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Now Rybakina is up next up for Boulter, who got past Alizé Cornet in round 2 on Centre Court.

The defending champion survived yet another stern test to win her 9th straight match at Wimbledon, 6-2 7-6(2), in a contest laced with drama.

Cornet, who has pulled off several big upsets at Wimbledon before, including knocking out World No 1 Iga Swiatek a year ago, made a match of it in the second set until she injured her right hip with Rybakina serving at 5-all.

The Frenchwoman screamed in pain as she fell to the court, but managed to get up for treatment, having her right knee elaborately taped, before continuing, but Rybakina fought off any nerves for another win.

“I started the match with good energy but it became tougher in the second,” Rybakina said. “I wasn’t pushing as good with the legs. That was a tricky long game. So a tough match but I’m happy to win in two sets and reach another round.”

Cornet left the court in tears, having bravely fought on, despite being outclassed in the first set, and becoming a real threat in the second.

When the 33-year-old took a nasty slip on the grass, appearing to awkwardly twist her knee as she went crashing to the ground, Rybakina quickly went over to check on her stricken opponent.

Cornet did return, but her movement was severely limited and Rybakina quickly took advantage to go 6-5 up.

Incredibly, the Frenchwoman played through the pain and even held serve to force a second set tiebreak, before inevitably falling to the World No 3.

Rybakina again showed her class by crossing onto Cornet’s side to congratulate her visibly shaken opponent after the match, and saving her from having to hobble to the net.

Alizé Cornet suffered a nasty fall against Elena Rybakina, who immediately went to her aid

© Mike Hewitt/Getty Images



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