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Boulter and Broady make their way into the pandemic rebound for British tennis | Wimbledon 2022

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meIt’s an odd thought, but had it not been for the pandemic, Britain’s top players may not be enjoying such success at Wimbledon this year. After 10 Britons advanced to the second round, the best since 1984, Katie Boulter and Liam Broady will bid for a place in the fourth round of a grand slam for the first time, trying to join Heather Watson and Cameron Norrie, who are already over there. after Friday’s victories.

In early 2020, when the pandemic began, British players came together by circumstance, rather than design. The only place they were able to train once the first restrictions were lifted was the National Tennis Center in Roehampton. Once maligned and considered an expensive white elephant, it once again became a place of hope for Britain’s best players.

With Andy Murray offering advice and practice with anyone he wanted, the camaraderie grew. The Battle of the Brits tournament, hosted by Jamie Murray, provided competitive tennis when it was needed most.

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The only disappointment for Boulter, in particular, is that she will not be on one of the two main courts again, having reveled on center court by beating last year’s finalist Karolina Pliskova in the previous round. Instead, she will be first on Court No. 2, while Broady will play on Court No. 1, against Boulter’s boyfriend, Australian Alex de Minaur.

The 17 British players in this year’s main draw were the most since 2001 and although 10 were wildcards, the success rate has been impressive. Seeing a group of local players supporting each other and feeding each other has been heartening. And the fact that it’s a bunch of new names for the most part is equally encouraging.

Boulter’s resurgence has been especially notable. Having dropped out of the top 100 in 2019 after sustaining a stress fracture in her back, she has had to be patient, something she admits is not in her nature. When Emma Raducanu came out of nowhere to win the US Open, she could easily have been thinking, “That should have been me.” Instead, she said to herself, “Why not me?”

Liam Broady celebrates defeating Diego Schwartzman in their second round match at Wimbledon.
Liam Broady celebrates defeating Diego Schwartzman in their second round match at Wimbledon. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

“One hundred percent, yes,” she said, when asked if she had been inspired by seeing Raducanu win her first Grand Slam. “What he did was amazing. I think everyone in this room knows what an incredible thing he did. He doesn’t come every day. She went out, surprised everyone and played fearless tennis. That’s what’s so impressive. I hope I can go out and do the same. I would love to do what she has done. You never know, one day it may happen.

“I’m going to take one step at a time. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I knew that I had worked hard to win a few rounds here. I just hope I can keep that going, keep the momentum going. I just hope to go out and have fun and have a smile on my face. I don’t think there is anything better than playing center court and getting my first win there. Ultimately that will give me a lot of energy for many more rounds, hopefully many more tournaments.” Boulter faces Harmony Tan of France, who stunned Serena Williams in the first round.

The left-footed Broady has been smiling at the All England Club and fully deserves his chance. At 28 years old, it has taken Broady a while to get to this stage and if there were ranking points at this year’s event, he would surely be ranked inside the top 100 for the first time.

The banter between Broady and Andy Murray has been a regular source of amusement for tennis Twitterers, but Broady also said the former world number one has been an inspiration and a major factor in his success of late. “Andy has been one of my harshest critics, but also one of the best advisers I’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s easy for people to say, ‘You have to believe in yourself more, you’re a great player.’ But when one of the greatest players of all time tells you that, he carries a lot more weight and hits you a lot harder.”

Rafael Nadal, Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff continue their title bids on Saturday, but if Boulter or Broady join Watson and Norrie in the fourth round, it will close out an unlikely week for British tennis.

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