Katie Boulter defeats Heather Watson in Nottingham to reach first WTA final | Tennis

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Katie Boulter booked her place in her first WTA Tour final and ensured she will return to the top 100 by beating compatriot Heather Watson at the Rothesay Open in Nottingham.

Boulter has cemented her new British No 1 status this week, beating Harriet Dart in the quarter-finals on Thursday and now getting the better of Watson with a 6-4 7-5 victory.

The 26-year-old, from nearby Leicestershire, went into the week ranked No 126 but has guaranteed she will be back in the top 100 next week for the first time since 2019. At that stage, Boulter looked set to push on towards the top 50, only for a stress fracture in her back to rule her out for seven months, and her progress has been stuttering since.

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This was the first all-British semi-final at tour level since Sue Barker and Virginia Wade used to meet regularly in the latter stages of tournaments in the 1970s. And it could yet be only the third all-British WTA final, with Jodie Burrage taking on France’s Alizé Cornet in the other semi-final.

Grass suits Boulter’s hard, flat hitting and she broke the Watson serve to lead 3-2 before a rain delay of an hour-and-a-half disrupted things. Watson immediately broke back on the resumption, but, with both women complaining about line calls, Boulter moved ahead again before clinching the set.

Watson looked set to take it to a decider when she led 4-1 in the second set, but Boulter saved four break points in the sixth game to stay in contention and went on win six of the last seven games.

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There had been tension between Boulter and Dart at the net over the former’s celebration, but here the two players shared a lengthy hug.

“It means so much to me, especially here,” Boulter said. “It was a really tough match. I just tried to put my heart on the line and managed to get through it in the end. I’ve worked so hard for this, me and my team. I’m just going to keep plugging away and, even if this isn’t my moment, that’s OK.”

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