Katie Boulter edged out by Kvitova at Eastbourne but Dart charge continues

Ever since Katie Boulter reached the top 100 three years ago and then fell out of it after a lengthy back injury, her greatest challenge has just been trying to get back there. On this long road, her momentum has continually been halted by numerous injuries and at times the level she believes she should be playing at has seemed far away.

In recent weeks, however, Boulter has found her way once more. After defeating the world No 7 Karolina Pliskova for the biggest win of her career on Tuesday, Boulter followed that with another great match against top opposition. In a tense, competitive encounter, the two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova edged past Boulter 5-7, 6-0, 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals at Eastbourne.

This grass season has reinforced that Boulter has the weapons to reside in the top 100, competing against the very best players each week. Boulter reached the quarter-final in Birmingham by clinching what was then her biggest career win over 35-ranked grass enthusiast Alison Riske in the first round. With her efforts, she has now risen back into the top 120, rounding in on the top 100 where she hopes to remain.

As Boulter departed, the tremendous tournament for British players continued as British No 2 Harriet Dart consolidated her own breakthrough grass season. She opened the day by defeating No.23 Jil Teichmann 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-3 in the second round, a match that had been halted on Tuesday night at one-set-all due to poor light.

After clinching the second biggest win of her career, Dart returned later in the afternoon to reach her first career WTA 500 quarter-final by edging out Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. She will face Kvitova on Thursday.

“I think it’s great to see all the British girls and guys pulling through and I think the potential has always been there,” Boulter said earlier in the week. “I never doubt these people – they work so hard day in day out, they just got a little bit unlucky with some of the results.

“I think this year is the year, you know, after Emma [Raducanu] doing incredibly well last year. A lot of the other girls can believe in themselves and reach for the stars. As she showed, it’s possible. Anyone can do it.”

Dart was joined in the quarter-finals by Jack Draper, who continued his own steady rise towards the top ranks of men’s tennis by attaining the second top-20 win of his young career, defeating world No 15 Diego Schwartzman 7-5, 7-6 (3). Draper, Great Britain’s best young hope on the men’s side, achieved his first top-15 win just last week at the same venue.

“I want to be a top player in the world so I know I’m going to have to deal with all these emotions and pressures,” he said. “But I feel like the only pressure I can put on myself is in my own head. So as long as I keep doing the right things and improving then that’s all I can do.”

Earlier, Cameron Norrie clinched his first win of the grass court season with a commanding 6-4, 6-2 win against Brandon Nakashima. In his only other pre-Wimbledon grass match, Norrie lost 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-4 against Grigor Dimitrov in the first round of Queen’s Club. Despite his defeat, Norrie said he was happy with his level in what was a high-quality match and he took his satisfaction with his level to Eastbourne.

Norrie will be seeded ninth at Wimbledon as he chases his first career grand slam fourth-round appearance, a distinction that evaded him in Paris as he lost in four sets against Karen Khachanov in the third round. Norrie recently admitted he really felt that Paris would be the time he finally had his long-awaited grand slam breakthrough and it took him a while to get over the defeat but he has rebounded now.

“Being seeded helps,” Norrie said. “Yes, I am going to take it one match at a time and for me I have still not reached the second week, so it would be nice to do that, and I guess the seeding helps. That’s the result of winning matches and stringing them together and I will obviously take that. Being ninth is pretty cool and pretty crazy.

“It all happened pretty quickly, getting up there, which has been a lot of fun, but yes, still means nothing, you know. You’ve still got to win the matches and today’s match is perfect for me to get a match under the belt, and then also to get a few more matches, hopefully this week, leading into a huge Wimby for me.”

Dan Evans, the British No 2, was less fortunate on Wednesday. Evans was defeated 7-6 (2), 6-4 by Maxime Cressy, who is an increasingly rare sight in tennis: a serve and volley player.