A year which, for Katie Boulter, began with being knocked out of the Australian Open qualifying event ended with her guiding Great Britain back towards the elite world group in the Billie Jean King Cup.
In the prolonged absence of Emma Raducanu, the 27-year-old from Leicestershire has emerged as the nearest thing the GB women’s game has to an authentic star, and this weekend was more confirmation of that.
Boulter, who ends the season ranked 58, scored two singles victories against an overmatched but gallant Sweden side to lead the way in a 3-1 win which will see GB play a qualifying match next April to reach the 2024 world finals.
She needed to save four set points before beating the distinctly useful Kajsa Rinaldo Persson 6-1, 7-6 to gain a 2-1 lead in the tie. Success was assured when Harriet Dart, promoted ahead of Jodie Burrage, then overcame Caijsa Hennemann 7-5, 6-2.
Boulter is now a big enough name to help draw more than 10,000 fans to the east London venue over the two days, her status enhanced by making the third round at Wimbledon and the US Open. The watching public included her boyfriend, men’s world No 12 Alex de Minaur, sitting anonymously in the stands.
The two of them have had career-best seasons and in Boulter’s case that is largely down to staying injury-free for the first time. While Dart was due to fly out at 6am today to play some lower-tier events in Asia, Boulter will afford herself a brief off-season before hitting the gym again.
‘I want to bullet-proof my body for next season and I’m already excited about it,’ she said. ‘I stayed healthy this year and it feels like I finally got a break, full credit to my physio.
‘I’ve been able to really step it up this year with my consistency and I have been mentally on it, week in, week out.’
Captain Anne Keothavong was pleased to have got past a team whose two best players were injured and replaced by a pair who played well above their rankings. Keothavong’s resources remain relatively thin, with only three GB women inside the world’s top 150, but she hopes to see further progress.
‘We know Katie is a big-match player and can compete at the highest level,’ she said. ‘All of our players have shown that in the past and it’s about finding that inner belief.’