More unlikely things have happened than Katie Boulter making a run deep into the heart of this year’s Wimbledon.
Her hometown football club, Leicester, winning the Premier League in 2016 for instance. Or perhaps a teenager from Kent winning the US Open within months of doing her A-levels.
Maybe something is in the air for the 25 year-old British number four, as already this has been no ordinary week.
Katie Boulter is through to the third round at Wimbledon after she overcame Karolina Pliskova
Boutler, from Leicester, is drawing inspiration from Leicester’s incredible 2016 league success
On Tuesday night, after her first round victory, she was told that her grandmother – among the inspirations for her tennis career – had passed away.
On Thursday afternoon she defeated last year’s beaten finalist and the number six seed, Karolina Pliskova, 3-6 7-6 6-4 to make the third round. Her next opponent will be Harmony Tan of France, the player who knocked out Serena Williams.
Forty minutes after Thursday’s victory Boulter ventured out onto the players’ roof lawn for an emotional reunion with her newly-widowed grandfather Brian, sneaking up from behind to give him a hug.
Also there was her mother Sue, a stalwart of Leicestershire tennis who happens also to be a member of the All England Club.
As Boulter said later: ‘I was lucky because my grandpa managed to come down from Leicester, and so we could keep him company and keep supporting him at the same time.’
While this week’s sad personal news is of a different dimension, she is no stranger to pursuing her career amid setbacks, particularly when it comes to her catalogue of varied injuries.
Overcoming No 6 seed Pliskova represents an impressive achievement for Boulter
Boulter’s coach Jeremy Bates isn’t surprised she performed well in difficult circumstances
To her longtime coach, former GB men’s number one Jeremy Bates, it was no surprise that she still produced her best tennis under the most difficult of circumstances.
‘She has worked incredibly hard and had an awful lot of adversity over a period of years,’ he told Sportsmail.
‘Yesterday was more of a thoughtful day for her after the news late but she would obviously have wished to do what her grandparents wanted. She has already proved she has mental strength through the tough times.
‘She got to her highest ranking in early 2019 and missed seven months with a back issue and then Covid came. She performs well on a big court, look at her record in the Billie Jean King Cup for GB. To get over the line was massive after what happened last year.’
He was referring to her narrow three-set defeat by then second seed Aryna Sabalenka, also on the Centre Court. And that was a much less complicated week, emotionally, than this one.
‘I actually had a phone call from my grandpa the night before I played,’ said Boulter. ‘He didn’t mention anything, but he kind of gave me the inkling that it might be coming.
‘I didn’t know anything until after my first match where my Mum basically pulled me aside and told me. She lived just down the road from the tennis club that I started playing tennis at. I’ve spent a lot of time on the courts there with my grandparents and family.
‘Her favourite tournament was Wimbledon. That’s why it’s a special one for me. She’d watch every single match that was on the TV. It’s a lot of memories, ones I cherish.’
Boulter has never lacked the shots, more the ability to keep her body intact long enough
Boulter – who was later planning to watch her Australian player boyfriend Alex de Minaur – had choked back tears in her interview on court, but was phenomenally composed as the match reached its climax.
The same thing happened a week previously against the same Czech opponent at Eastbourne, where she also beat her 6-4 in the decider.
Given that Pliskova may hold the unwanted title of being the best player in the women’s game never to have won a Grand Slam, it is quite an achievement for the world number 118 to have beaten her twice in eight days.
But then Boulter has never lacked the shots, more the ability to keep her body intact long enough to allow her to us them at a prolonged run of tournaments.
It was an emotional encounter for Boulter, whose grandmother passed away on Tuesday
As Bates pointed out: ‘Katie has got weapons, and that is what you need in the modern women’s game. There are a lot of players out there who can hit the ball very hard and you have to stand toe-to-toe with them.’
Indeed it was notable just how much more powerfully this British player could strike it than Emma Raducanu 24 hours earlier, as she struggled to respond to what Caroline Garcia had thrown at her.
It did not help the home favourite’s cause against Pliskova that the roof was inexplicably shut when not a drop of rain was falling outside. The conditions could hardly have been more different to breezy Eastbourne the week before.
After clinching the tiebreak 7-4, Boulter hung in until 4-4 in the deciding set. She then abruptly reeled off a blitz of winners to break.
In a tournament of unpredictable results she could emerge as one of the surprise packages
After that came another flurry to close out the match, rendering the towering Pliskova – who had slammed down 13 aces – flailing on the baseline.
In a fortnight already yielding unpredictable results she could yet emerge as one of the surprise packages going deep in the tournament.
Asked about Leicester’s odds when they win the title she responded: ‘What do the bookies say mine is are? (Still 250-1). I hope I can take a leaf out of their book. I’ve got a lot of support from the Foxes. They were something else, maybe I can create that this year.’