There were British losses for Katie Swan and Sonay Kartal on Tuesday, but there were also stunning wins for both Heather Watson and Katie Boulter to help bolster the hopes of British fans.
It’s a relief to get over the line. The last few years for me, personally, have been tough. I’ve had my ups and downs – mostly downs – like so many people have, with the pandemic and stuff. Heather Watson
Boulter’s win over France’s Clara Burel means 9 British men and women will line up in the 2nd-round, the best home performance at the All England Club since 1997, which was the year both Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski made the Last 8 in the Gentlemen’s Singles.
Harriet Dart could make it 10 players if she can win her delayed first round match against Spain’s Rebeka Masarova on Wednesday, which would equal a record from 1984.
Watson, the British No 4, completed her match, suspended from Monday, by fighting back to win the deciding set against Tamara Korpatsch from Germany to seal a 6-7(7) 7-5 6-2 win.
It was an impressive win on Court No 1, where Watson produced a fine display to reach the 2nd-round, and found herself in tears in her on-court interview afterwards.
“It’s a relief to get over the line,” she admitted. “The last few years for me, personally, have been tough.
“I’ve had my ups and downs – mostly downs – like so many people have, with the pandemic and stuff.
“I would just say the battles with that, the isolation. I’m such a people person, very outgoing person. Being with friends and family, being social, is what fulfils me in life.
“So, I guess I missed that. Then it was just impossible to find joy on the tennis court with no fans.
“Being able to play my first match on Court One was really special, but not just that, with my tennis as a whole.
“The person I am, I’m a fighter. Also for my game, I’m the type of player that needs to put in a lot of work to play good tennis, a lot of hours on the court, a lot of hours in the gym.
“Just not being happy with my ranking, the way I’m playing. I expect more of myself. I think tennis players as a whole always do. But I felt like the last few years I’ve been underachieving.
“I think it was just a build-up of that, as well, just how much I’ve been putting in and not getting any reward. So, you know, after my match here last year on Court One, that was an all-time low for me.
“Coming back, I was so happy I could change the outcome and narrative this year.”
30-year old Watson had let match points slip in her first round loss to American Kristie Ahn last year.
Now she has a chance to move forward again, with a 2nd-round match against Wang Qiang, who took out Belinda Bencic, the 14th seed from Switzerland, 6-4 5-7 6-2 in a match also played over 2 days.
Later, Boulter, the British No 3, ensured Day 2 ended on a winning note beating Frenchwoman Clara Burel, 7-5 6-3, hours after watching her Aussie boyfriend, 23-year-old Alex de Minaur, win his first match, just metres away.
Leicester-born Boulter said she is ‘very lucky’ to have a boyfriend who understands the pressures of competing.
“He’s so supportive of me in the job that I do and completely understands,” she said. “Not many people do.
“To have that kind of connection, where they know what you’re going through, they know the lows and highs, it does feel very comforting. I’m lucky to have him.”
The 25-year old, who is on her way back from injury, added: “He has been a really big support for me in terms of through the tough moments, being in the gym with me when I was doing the rehab for the start of this last injury.”
It took Boulter 89 minutes to complete a classy win against a player ranked 23 places above her on the world rankings.
She joins Emma Raducanu and Heather Watson in the women’s 2nd-round, while Andy Murray, Cameron Norrie, Jack Draper, Liam Broady, Alastair Gray and Ryan Peniston all progressed in the men’s singles.
“I’m loving the success we are having in British tennis, everyone is spurring each other on,” said Boulter. “I’m catching a bit of that vibe and it’s just nice to be a part of it.
“I see how hard people work behind the scenes and it feels like we are a really good place right now.”
Recent seasons have seen Boulter battle a succession of injuries, including a back injury in 2019 that put the brakes on her career, just weeks after cracking the world’s top 100.
Her win over Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova at Eastbourne last week was a first against a Top 10 player, and underlined the promise that was predicted when she made her Wimbledon debut 5 years ago.
She has been close to claiming big scalps before, coming close to beating 2nd-seeded Aryna Sabalenka on the Centre Court last year.
“I’ve got the belief I can win these matches, and I’ve learned from the mistakes that I’ve made,” she added.
“I’ve had a lot of close matches against good players but couldn’t quite get over the line. Last year was huge making the second round and it gave me a really big boost.
“I just want to push on and stay injury-free. I’ve put a lot of time and effort in to get to this point.
“I feel I can be a contender, I’ve shown in some of my recent matches what I’m capable of but it’s doing it day in, day out. Getting my first top ten win last week proved a lot to me but I’ve got to stay fit.”
Boulter awaits the winner of the match between Pliskova, the 6th seed, and fellow Czech Tereza Martincova.
Swan, the British No 6 who received a wild-card into the main draw, bagged the first set against Marta Kostyuk, but the Ukrainian struck back after the Brit injured her leg and had to have it strapped mid match before losing 4-6 6-4 6-4.
Kartal, the British No 9, who hails from Brighton, also received a wild-card, and had to face a changed opponent at short notice due to the withdrawal of Danka Kovinic from Montenegro because of a lower back injury, but suffered a 6-4 3-6 6-1 loss to Dutch lucky loser Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove, who moves on to meet top seed Iga Swiatek in round 2.