As she dared from one side of the court to the other yesterday, few watching Katie Boulter will have suspected that, as well as dealing with the immense grief of losing her grandmother, just six years ago she was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome so debilitating she couldn’t get out of bed.
Not only that, but in 2019 the 25-year-old suffered a serious back injury that saw her consigned to the sidelines for months.
Her remarkable comeback demonstrates a steely resolve that fans now hope will propel her even further through this year’s Wimbledon.
So who is the 5ft 11in powerhouse from Leicester with the perfect ponytail, who is now carrying the hopes of a nation?
One thing’s for certain, she’s no flash in the pan.
Katie Boulter produced the biggest win of her career by upsetting Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova on Center Court to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time
Precociously talented, Katie won the first tournament she ever entered – the Leicestershire under-10s – aged just five.
By the time she was ten she was claiming national titles and representing Great Britain, following in the footsteps of her mother Sue, also a junior GB international who twice captained Leicestershire to the County Cup.
Growing up in the upmarket village of Woodhouse Eaves, Katie and her older brother James – a keen tennis player, who now works in public relations – would join their mother at Leicestershire Lawn Tennis Club, which was within ‘lobbing distance’ of the family home .
Aged four when she first picked up a racquet, Katie was determined to beat her older brother. ‘When Katie was tiny, she would be waiting at the side of the court while I was coaching, desperate to have a go,’ Sue recalls.
‘That’s how she came to enter the under-10s event, it wasn’t planned. I’ve still got a photo of the presentation. The other girl is giving her a glare, but Katie is just grinning into the camera, as happy as could be.’
A tearful Boulter revealed it had been an exceptionally emotional time, saying: ‘I’ve got no words, I’m literally shaking, the crowd was unbelievable. ‘My gran passed away two days ago and I’d like to dedicate this win to her. It’s a dream come true. I’ve got hopefully many more matches to play’
Katie’s mum, who is divorced from her father David, travels widely to support her daughter and was in the stands yesterday alongside Katie’s grandfather, Brian Gartshore.
Katie’s Instagram page is full of snaps of her and the 86-year-old inventor (he helped develop the anti-theft tags used in clothes shops) together – at dinner, watching their football team Leicester City, on country walks.
‘He is literally my idol,’ she says. ‘He put down the airfield lights at Gatwick and Heathrow, he is a smart guy. And we have some great conversations about nothing to do with tennis.’ However, Brian is not the only man to appear on Katie’s glossy Instagram feed. Also featured is her boyfriend, Australian tennis No 1 Alex de Minaur.
They have been a couple since March 2020. ‘I’m super lucky,’ she said this week. ‘He’s so supportive of me in the job that I do and completely understands.
‘To have that kind of connection where they know what you’re going through, the lows and highs, it does feel very comforting.’
Katie is coached by former British No 1 Jeremy Bates. She is also a member of the LTA Pro Scholarship Program for the most highly regarded developing elite players in the country.
Having already modeled for Nike and graced the pages of Vogue, Katie’s commercial potential is reflected in her recent signing by KIN Partners, a boutique management agency whose clients include David Beckham. It’s all the more extraordinary when you consider that six years ago she was suffering from severe chronic fatigue syndrome.
The little-understood condition flared up following a trip to India in December 2014, where she had contracted a virus, and dramatically worsened the next year. ‘I got to the point where I was pretty much doing nothing during the day,’ she has said. ‘I was in bed. I would go for walks and that was my daily activity. I got sick a lot.’
Katie is coached by former British No 1 Jeremy Bates. She is also a member of the LTA Pro Scholarship Program for the most highly regarded developing elite players in the country
Having got back on court, disaster struck again in April 2019. Just after breaking into the world’s top 100, Katie suffered a serious back injury – a spinal stress fracture – as part of Great Britain’s Federation Cup team.
The injury, following GB’s victory over Kazakhstan, saw her sidelined for the rest of the year. Although a leg injury this year has further limited her play, she’s nevertheless been blasting back, including beating yesterday’s rival Pliskova earlier at a match in Eastbourne last week.
Her experiences seem to have only sharpened her resolve, with Katie saying: ‘I’ve come to terms [with the fact] that I don’t think I am ever going to be perfect.
‘I’ve been working hard on just trying to stay and be there for longer than just one match. In my mind I am here to stay.
‘I want to be in the top 10 one day and I believe I can be there. It’s just a matter of keeping my body and mind in check.
‘One thing I can guarantee is that, no matter what is thrown in my direction, I’m a fighter and I’ll get there eventually.’
Aged four when she first picked up a racquet, Katie was determined to beat her older brother. After defeats for Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray on Wednesday, Boulter thrilled the home crowd by coming from a set down to win 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.