The Progress Tour Women’s Championships was due to feature five of the top eight female tennis players in Britain: Heather Watson, Katie Boulter (based on her protected ranking of 85), Harriet Dart, Katie Swan and Jodie Burrage.
Unfortunately, Watson and Dart pulled out to injury on the eve of the tournament at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton. Then Swan retired due to a hip problem in the second set of her opening match.
These withdrawals robbed the event of three of its most recognisable players, which probably made it harder to persuade members of the British public to tune in and watch it on BBC Sport’s online platform.
Despite this significant setback, those who did watch The Progress Tour Women’s Championships were treated to some excellent tennis – particularly from Boulter and Burrage.
Boulter makes strong return to action
When Watson and Dart withdrew, the pressure shifted to Boulter as she became the favourite to win the event.
However, it did not seem to affect at any point as she won all five of her matches to claim the title and maintained a calm demeanour on court throughout.
The sentiments Boulter expressed after she beat Burrage in the final may go some way to explaining why she was so composed.
“Just to get my body through five matches is a huge bonus for me,” the Brit said. “That was my aim for this week and I felt like I’ve done that.”
Understandably, Boulter prioritised improvement of her fitness and match sharpness above results. However, she was pleased to claim the title too.
“I’m very happy to get the win,” the Brit said in her on-court interview. “There’s been some good tennis and bad tennis, but sometimes you’ve just got to find a way and I felt like I did that today.”
Boulter v Burrage provides great entertainment
Arguably, Boulter produced her best tennis of the week during her final group match. In an entertaining encounter with Burrage, she won the first set 6-3 before holding off a superb fightback from her younger opponent to win the second set 7-6(5).
Before that, Boulter performed well during comfortable straight-sets wins over World No.797 Alice Gillan and World No.954 Emily Arbuthnott. And her steady improvement from match to match set her up well for the challenge of facing Burrage.
However, both Boulter and Burrage were suffering physically by the time the semi-finals came around. Consequently, their performances declined, and the Leicester-born Brit was unhappy with the way she played in her win over Freya Christie.
“I don’t think it was our best level,” Boulter said in her post-match interview. “I think I’m going to have to up my game tomorrow because that wasn’t very good. But I got the win so that’s all that counts.”
The final was a similar story. The Brit, 23, did not perform particularly well but she hung in and fought back to beat Burrage 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2. And, although Boulter did not play as well as she would have liked in her last two matches, it was still an excellent week for her.
Burrage hints at bright future
While Boulter is very familiar to British tennis fans, Burrage is far less well-known. However, that may soon be about to change because her performances at The Progress Tour Women’s Championships suggest she has a lot of potential.
The Brit, 21, started the week in ideal fashion as she showed off her full array of powerful groundstrokes during comprehensive straight-set wins over Arbuthnott and Gillan.
Burrage followed up those results with a superb display of hitting during the second set of her group match against Boulter. She led 3-0 and should have gone on to level the match. When she gains more experience, she will probably learn to do exactly that.
After the Brit beat World No.569 Alicia Barnett 6-4 6-2 in the last four, she then produced some more high-class tennis to put herself in a position to serve for championship at 6-3 6-5 up against Boulter in the final.
Although Burrage faltered once again and lost her serve as well as the match, she will have undoubtedly impressed those who watched her. If she continues to improve, she can look forward to a very bright future.
Serena Williams Loses Late-Night Wimbledon Thriller To Tan
In what could possibly be her final appearance in singles at The All England Club, Williams was edged out by a French qualifier.
The eagerly awaited return of Serena Williams to professional tennis has ended in defeat after she crashed out of the first round at Wimbledon.
Until this week, it has been 12 months since the 40-year-old last played a Tour-level match in singles. Taking on French qualifier Harmony Tan, the American bowed out 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7), after more than three hours of play. Making it the first time she has suffered back-to-back losses in the opening round at Wimbledon after being forced to retire in 2021 due to an ankle injury.
Williams had a chance to serve for the match at 5-4 in the decider but failed to seize the opportunity. Paving the way for Tan to go on and narrowly prevail in the tiebreaker during what was a sensational encounter with plenty of twists and turns.
“It was really tough. I had some chances in the first set. It didn’t work out, it was just totally different to me.” Williams said during her press conference.
“It was definitely a long battle and fight. It was better than last year.”
Playing in her 21st Wimbledon main draw, Williams got off to a rollercoaster start that saw her fall behind 0-2 before she valiantly battled back with the help of a four-game winning streak. It was visible that she still had tremendous power in her shotmaking despite her lengthy absence from the sport but the inevitable signs of rust were also on display.
It was for this reason that the opener featured various changes of momentum with 24-year-old Tan drawing level. A player who was playing in the Wimbledon main draw for the first time and briefly broke into the world’s top 100 earlier this year. Tan continued applying the pressure with the clever use of slice shots as she benefited from a series of mistakes from the Tour veteran. Back-to-back mistakes from Williams and then a winning forehand from the Frenchwoman on the next point enabled her to break for a chance to serve the first set out at 6-5. A mission she accomplished with a winning forehand passing shot on set point.
Williams briefly left the court whilst there was a delay to the match for the roof to come on. Upon her return, she found herself in a mammoth Tan service game which lasted around 20 minutes. A total of 12 deuces were featured before the American converted her sixth break point opportunity by hitting a shot that painted the baseline. That breakthrough would prove to be a turning point in the match as Williams went on to level at one set apiece.
Exchanging breaks early on in the decider, fatigue began to settle in for both players during what was one of the most dramatic encounters to take place in the women’s draw in recent times. Williams looked to be on the verge of sealing victory after a Tan backhand into the net enabled her to break for a chance to serve the match out at 5-4. It was evident how much the match meant to Williams who threw her hands in the air out of pure relief. However, she failed to capitalize on the opportunity. It would be a gutsy Tan who would go on to prevail in the tiebreaker. Ending Williams’ Wimbledon campaign this year and potentially permanently.
“I don’t know what to say because I am so emotional but she is a superstar and for my first Wimbledon but it is just … wow,” Tan said in her post-match interview with the BBC. “When I saw the draw I was really scared. It’s Serena Williams. She’s a legend and I was like ‘Oh my God, how can I play?’. I thought if I could win one or two games it would be really good for me.”
The question now is where does Williams go from here? After already establishing herself as one of the all-time greats with 73 Tour titles and more than $94M in prize money earnings, she can easily walk away from the sport with her head held high. Furthermore, she has plenty of other interests to keep her busy. One of which is her multi-million-pound investment fund named Serena Ventures.
“That’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t know. Who knows where I’ll pop up.” She replied when asked about her future in the sport.
“I gave all I could. Maybe tomorrow I could have given more. Maybe a week ago I could have given more. At some point you have to be able to be okay with that. And that’s all I can do. I can’t change time or anything.” She added.
It would be foolish to write Williams off right away with her home Grand Slam, the US Open, later this year. After her defeat to Tan, Williams said it made her want to return to the practice courts. A sign that she isn’t done with tennis just yet.
“When you’re at home, especially in New York, and the US Open, that being the first place I’ve won a Grand Slam, is something that’s always super special. Your first time is always special.” She said.
“There’s definitely lots of motivation to get better and to play at home.”
As for Tan, she faces 32nd seed Sara Sorribes Tormo in the second round.
Bianca Andreescu eases past Emina Bektas for first-ever win at Wimbledon
The Canadian is through to the second round at the All England Club for the first time after dominating the American qualifier.
Bianca Andreescu booked her spot in the second round at Wimbledon after beating the American qualifier Emina Bektas 6-1, 6-3 in only 55 minutes on Court 14.
The Toronto native hit 28 winners and served five aces in a match that she dominated from start to finish.
The world number 56 got off to a quick start setting up two breakpoints in the opening game with her stellar forehand but the American was able to save both and hold serve.
At 1-1, Andreescu had two more chances again using her forehand to great effect and broke to take an early 2-1 lead. She then turned that break into a double break and served out the first set.
The second set was more of the same from the first as the Toronto native set up three early chances to break in the first game and broke serve once more to take a 2-0 lead.
At 3-1 the world number 224 fought back as she started to find her game and got one of the breaks back but the Canadian responded the following game by breaking right back.
From there it was smooth sailing for the Canadian as she was able to serve out the match and book her spot in the second round for the first time.
Andreescu will now face Elena Rybakina in the next round after the Kazak beat the lucky loser Coco Vandegweghe in straight sets 7-6, 7-5. This will be their first meeting.
Iga Swiatek Becomes First Woman Since 1997 To Win 36 Matches In A Row After Wimbledon Triumph
The top seed encountered a blip en route to her latest victory this season.
In her first match since triumphing at the French Open, Iga Swiatek reminded her peers why she is world No.1 by producing a clinical first round win at Wimbledon.
Swiatek, who has now won an outstanding 36 matches in a row, was largely the dominant force throughout her 6-0, 6-3, triumph over Croatia’s Jana Fett. A 25-year-old who was playing in the main draw of a major for the first time since 2018. Swiatek stormed through the match with the help of 10 winners and broke her opponent six times.
“It was my first match on grass this season so I knew it was going to be tricky. I lost my focus a little bit (in the second set) and she used that pretty well,” said Swiatek.
“I’m pretty happy that I came back and finished in two sets. I’m just feeling out how to play here (at Wimbledon) and implementing all the things we have been practicing. It’s a new experience for me.”
The 21-year-old top seed was selected by Wimbledon to open up proceedings on Center Court on the first Tuesday. An honor which is usually done by the reigning women’s champion but Ash Barty has retired since her triumph. Tournament CEO Sally Bolton commented that Swiatek was the ‘obvious choice to do so.’
Living up to Bolton’s recent praise, Swiatek came out the blocks running as she raced through the opener in just over 30 minutes. Winning 31 out of 49 points played in the set. Incredibly that was the 17th time she has won a set 6-0 this year during a competitive match.
However, the fairytale start failed to continue into the second frame with Swiatek coming unstuck behind her serve. Twice in a row, she was broken by a growingly confident Fett who fed off of the animated support she received from the crowd. Out of nowhere, the former top 100 player worked her way to a 3-1 lead.
Sensing danger, Swiatek worked her way back to draw level at 3-3 with the help of some costly errors from her rival. Closing in on victory two games later, she failed to convert a duo of break point opportunities before succeeding on her third attempt after a Fett backhand landed out. Serving for a place in the last 64, she sealed victory with a 106 mph serve down the center of the court that Fett hit back into the net.
“It’s pretty tricky because I still feel like I have only played like 12 weeks on the grass in my life. But the atmosphere and tradition (of Wimbledon) is pumping me up so I’m motivated to play here well and use the experience my coach has,” the top seed commented afterward.
Swiatek is only the third woman to win 36 Tour-level matches in a row since 1990. Martina Hingis achieved the milestone in 1997 and Monica Seles did so in 1990.
In the second round, Swiatek will play Dutch lucky loser Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove.
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