Katie Boulter overcame a spirited challenge from Jodie Burrage to earn a 6-3 7-6(5) win and finish top of the Anne Keothavong Group at The Progress Tour Women’s Championships.
The Brit, 23, is steadily working her way back to form after the enforced break that all the players have had to deal with while the world seeks to protect itself during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“(Matches like this) are exactly why I wanted to play this tournament,” Boulter said in her on-court interview. “I knew there were going to be challenges and you’ve just got to find a way and I felt like I did that today.”
She continued, “I’m not that match-tight, but I feel like I’ve done a really good job in my time off to keep myself prepared and hopefully (my tennis) will keep getting better and better.”
Boulter’s next challenge will be an interesting one as she takes on Freya Christie – a player she knows very well – in the semi-finals. “She’s my best friend so I know we’ll both put everything out on the court and I’m sure it will be a really good match.”
Boulter sets the early paceEmbed from Getty Images
The first set between Boulter and Burrage followed an unusual pattern because there were very few games during which both players produced high-quality tennis. Instead, they took it in turns to excel.
Towards the end of the close first game, a couple of net cords went Boulter’s way and she earned an immediate break.
With the momentum on her side, the more experienced Brit hit some excellent groundstrokes while Burrage lost her focus. Consequently, Boulter established a surprise 4-0 lead.
Then the pendulum swung back the other way. The older Brit made a few errors while her younger opponent found her rhythm and won the next three games to close the gap to 4-3.
However, Boulter stopped Burrage’s revival in its track with a love hold. Then she capitalised on some lacklustre serving from the younger Brit to break again and clinch the set.
Burrage was clearly annoyed, and she criticised herself as she walked to her chair. With her frustrations vented, she played some great tennis at the start of the second set.
Burrage takes charge in the second set before Boulter fights backEmbed from Getty Images
The Brit, 21, produced some especially eye-catching backhands. She guided one of the best to the sideline of the service box while Boulter was stranded behind the baseline. Then she hit an even better winner down the line a couple of games later.
During this excellent run of form, Burrage broke Boulter twice and raced into a 3-0 lead. However, she then ruined her hard work slightly by throwing in a sloppy service game which she lost to love.
The younger Brit almost restored her double break advantage straight away when she earned four break points during a long game on Boulter’s serve.
But she could not produce her best tennis when she needed it and the more experienced Brit eventually held on to reduce the deficit to 3-2.
Incredibly, the next game was similarly epic. Burrage kept earning chances to clinch a vital hold and then wasting them by making errors. In the end, her failure to close out the game cost her when she netted a forehand to gift Boulter a break.
Having levelled the set at 3-3, the more experienced Brit was surprisingly timid in the next game. And, to her great credit, Burrage took full advantage. She punished a couple of weak second serves with superb winners, then unleashed a big forehand to seal the break.
However, the younger Brit did not manage to consolidate the break and, when Boulter held to make the score 5-4, the pressure shifted completely to Burrage.
The World No.293 handed her more experienced opponent three match points by making a couple of unforced errors. But she then won the next five points in a row with an ace and four other excellent first serves to level the score once more.
Both players held serve well under pressure to take the set to a tie-break, which in truth was a low-quality affair. First, Burrage made a series of errors to gift Boulter a 5-1 lead. Then the older Brit served a double-fault and made a backhand error to allow her opponent back into it at 6-4.
Finally, Burrage produced a moment of quality when she finished a well-constructed point with a backhand winner. Then she could only stand and watch as Boulter sent down an ace to seal the win.