She was the much better player – Katie Boulter brushed aside by Elena Rybakina

By Sports Desk July 08, 2023

Katie Boulter conceded she was beaten by the “much better player” as her Wimbledon run came to an end with a crushing loss to defending champion Elena Rybakina.

Boulter cemented her new-found status as British number one by reaching the last-32 for a second successive year, and there were high hopes she could at least give third seed Rybakina a match.

Boulter has shown many times that she loves the big stage but, having waited until nearly 9pm to walk out on Centre Court, she managed to detain Rybakina for only 56 minutes in a 6-1 6-1 hammering that ends home singles hopes at Wimbledon.

“Obviously a really tough match against a tough competitor,” said the 26-year-old. “I gave it my best today. I wouldn’t say I really felt like I got into the match fully.

“She’s clearly the defending champion for a reason, and I learned a lot today and that’s what I’m going to have to take from today’s match.”

After some positive results earlier in the week it has been a chastening two days for British tennis, with Andy Murray, Cameron Norrie and Liam Broady all falling on Friday.

Boulter pulled off the best win of her career in the second round here last year, defeating former finalist Karolina Pliskova, and in seven previous matches against top-10 players had only failed to win at least a set on one occasion.

Rybakina had not been convincing in the first two rounds after coming into the tournament under-cooked because of illness but she hit her stride straight away and the match quickly got away from Boulter.

The Kazakh possesses probably the fiercest strike in the women’s game, as well as the best serve following Serena Williams’ retirement, and she lost only nine points on serve throughout the match while hitting 20 winners.

Boulter admitted she has never faced a ball-strike quite like Rybakina’s before, saying: “Obviously it’s a lot quicker and the majority of girls, they don’t quite hit the ball like that. It’s quite flat. You don’t really see where she’s going. She disguises it very well.

“I struggled with it a lot today. It felt like I got into it a little bit at times and I started to pick up her ball but she was relentless at the end of the day. She was the much better player.”

Having to wait until so late to go on court after two long matches and a rain delay probably did not help Boulter, who nevertheless insisted she enjoyed the occasion.

“It was quite late,” she said. “Obviously it was my first match playing under lights. It was a little bit different and it took time for me to adjust on serve especially. I don’t think I quite found it.

“I will always reflect back on something positive. The crowd are incredible. I wanted to give them a bit more today, but unfortunately I couldn’t do that. But I appreciated them every single second I was out there.”

There are certainly positives to take from the grass-court season for Boulter, who won her first WTA Tour event in Nottingham last month, while she will be at a career-high ranking just outside the top 70 a week on Monday.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a tough night but I’m going to sit here tomorrow morning and tell you that I’m at a career high,” she said.

“I’ve had some seriously positive weeks. I’ve come off the back of five long weeks with no injuries, no issues.

“I’ve got a great rest of the year ahead of me. I’ve got not many points to defend. It’s a really good opportunity for me to keep pushing my ranking up and really make a statement and play many more matches like today. They’re the matches that I want to be playing.”

It is not the end of Boulter’s Wimbledon, meanwhile, with the Leicestershire player due to contest her second-round mixed doubles match alongside boyfriend Alex De Minaur on Sunday.

“I’m sure tonight Alex will be giving me some words of wisdom,” she said. “I’m going to be ready to go tomorrow and enjoying myself and having fun. It will be a great way to end Wimbledon, for sure.”

Rybakina was delighted with her performance and she moves on to a fourth-round clash against 13th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia.

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