Katie Boulter set for huge rankings breakthrough after landmark victory

Kevin Palmer
A delighted Katie Boulter
Katie Boulter from United Kingdom reacts

An emotional Katie Boulter is set for her biggest rankings leap yet after she sealed her place in a first WTA 500 tournament.

British No 1 Boulter beat Croatia’s Donna Vekic 6-4 6-3 at the San Diego Open, as she backed up her impressive win against second seed Beatriz Haddad Maia in the last 16 by knocking out the 2022 runner-up.

From trailing 3-1 in the first set, Boulter won nine of the next 10 games in another confident display, with her emotion rising to the surface after she hit the winning shot.

Vecic, seeded seventh, broke first in the opening set but then allowed Boulter to hit straight back after an error-strewn service game.

Boulter then saved three break points to hold and grabbed a crucial second break for 5-4 before serving out the set.

Two stunning Boulter backhands brought the 27-year-old from Leicester another break at the start of the second, and a subsequent break to love put her in complete control.

Boulter let Vecic claw one break back as she served for the set, but she converted her first match point with a clubbing forehand after the longest rally of the match, wrapping up the victory in an hour and 36 minutes.

“It was an absolute battle in tricky conditions, it was not easy to get any rhythm as we are both big hitters,” Boulter said in her on-court interview.

“I found it tough to kind of get into the match and I think I just tried to stay as strong as I could in the head.

“Somehow found a way over the line in the first, then played some really good stuff in the second.

“I’m an aggressive player, so I do try and go for it no matter what the conditions are, but you do have to change it up a little bit when it does get a bit windy like today.

“I got over the line in the first set and played some good stuff in the second.”

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The victory pushes Boulter towards her highest WTA ranking, as she has moved up to No 43 on the provisional list.

If she beats American Emma Navarro in the semi-finals, her ranking will leap again to around No 37, which is pushing the 27-year-old close to a seeded ranking for Grand Slams.

It is a hugely impressive rise for a player who was operating at ITF World Tour level a year ago, with Boulter’s run to a WTA 500 tournament contrasting her story from a year ago, when she was playing in a $60,000 tournament in Croissy-Beaubourg.

She was ranked at No 157 a year ago and made her big move in the rankings when she won her first WTA title in Nottingham last June.

“My next step for me is to challenge myself to get to 32 and push on from there,” said Boulter as she assessed her targets for 2024.

“I feel like I’ve done a lot but we also have a lot more to do and that for me is what keeps me going every single day when I’m training.

“I’ve got quite a few goals for next year which might be a good thing or a bad thing. I’m not really huge on rankings goals, I’m more of a process person.

“I like to go back to the nitty-gritty, the little things; the daily basis stuff. There are a few things in my head I want to tweak.

“I’m going to be me asking myself every single day next year if I’m doing everything I possibly can and much more to be where I want to be. That’s going to be the challenge for me.

“I’ve always wanted to be inside the top 100 but I’ve also been there before so it was never about getting back into the top 100.

“It was about pushing past my career high. I wanted to get closer to 50 so I had small mini-goals through the year, but I wouldn’t say I had a massive goal.”