Progress Tour Women’s Championships: Katie Boulter on lockdown & an unexpected flatmate

Progress Tour Women's Championships: Katie Boulter on lockdown & an unexpected flatmate

Katie Boulter (left) and Heather Watson
Katie Boulter (left) will be competing at the Progress Tour Women’s Championships
Venue: National Tennis Centre, Roehampton Dates: 14-18 July
Coverage: Watch live TV coverage on the BBC Sport website & app from 11:00 BST

Lockdown came at just the wrong time for Katie Boulter.

Apart from the fact she had just rediscovered some of her best tennis after a long injury lay-off, she found herself with a flatmate instead of a flat-sitter.

But sharing her home unexpectedly with fellow player Laura Robson turned out well – excellent caramel shortbread definitely helped – and the break gave her a chance to work on her strength as well as do some volunteering with the elderly.

“I wouldn’t say it’s been the best time but I’ve definitely used it productively – I’ve tried to make it a positive situation,” the 23-year-old told BBC Sport while preparing for her first event since the coronavirus pandemic halted the tennis season.

She is playing in the Progress Tour Women’s Championships at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, a behind-closed-doors event that aims to give British players some competition before the professional tour resumes in August.

‘Headsets on court is interesting but would it work on tour?’

Exhibition events during the pandemic have featured some innovative formats and ways to boost fan engagement, including players donning headsets to speak to TV commentators during changeovers at last month’s Battle of the Brits men’s event.

“I thought it was fresh and interesting, some of the stuff they did, and maybe we can bring it on to the tour,” Boulter said.

“But some of it is quite hard to do – having the headsets on court is quite interesting but at the same time when you’re really in that match and it’s not an exhibition I’m not sure how you’re going to react to it.”

Some things like the lack of ball kids and line judges may be here for a while as organisers seek to limit the number of people on site at tournaments.

Would Boulter mind having to pick up her own balls at tour events?

“I don’t mind doing it at all. It’s normal for me to be doing it in practice, I do it every day of my life,” she said. “Whatever makes it safe.”

Volunteering and cake

Boulter is close to her grandparents and when she was not able to see them she decided to volunteer with Age UK, speaking on the phone with older people who were feeling lonely.

She tells them she’s a tennis player but says she is much more interested in hearing about their gardening.

“I try to keep it a little bit away from myself,” said Boulter, who also created a competition for youngsters to win a coaching session with her.

When she wasn’t doing that, she was exercising at home, building up her physical and mental strength – as well as working off some cake.

“Laura’s got really into baking – I’m not sure it’s good for me having to eat cakes every single day of the lockdown!” said Boulter, who had originally invited Robson to stay at the flat while she was away at some tournaments before she herself ended up back there too.

“I think it’s fair to say I’ve been on the watt bike a little bit more than usual.”

What is the Progress Tour Women’s Championships?

The behind-closed-door tournament features women’s singles and women’s doubles events in a round-robin format.

There are two singles events – the Premier event and Division 1, with eight players competing in each one.

Players are drawn in groups of four for the round-robin stage, with the top two in each qualifying for the semi-finals.

There is a prize money pool of £30,000, with the winner of the Premier singles earning £6,000.

Who is playing?

Katie Boulter (protected 85)Francesca Jones (322)
Katie Swan (254)Maia Lumsden (368)
Jodie Burrage (289)

Top-five British players Heather Watson and Harriet Dart pulled out of the tournament because of injuries. The pair were replaced by compatriots Freya Christie and Alice Gillan.

Schedule

14-16 July – Round-robin stage (starting 11:00 BST)

17-18 July – semi-final and finals

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