With early exits for many of the British women on Day 1, a lot of eyes will be on wildcard Katie Boulter. Her reward for winning her opener is a likely Centre Court matchup with No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka. With several rivals not competing, Sabalenka will be keen to establish herself as a slam contender rather than her current reputation that sees her as a star performer in lesser but still lucrative tournaments.
Boulter had been ranked inside the top 90 two years back and looked to be the next possible breakthrough player in terms of British women. A number of injuries stunted that grow but a return to the grass gives hope that she can still be that player. She was a quarter finalist in Nottingham, picking up a number of strong wins and being up a set before retiring there. She beat Danielle Lao in her opener although it wasn’t the most glamorous of wins, toughing it out 6-7 6-3 6-4.
It was a huge contrast of styles in Sabalenka’s 6-1 6-4 win over Monica Niculescu on Monday. At her worst, this would be the kind of match that the Belarussian might lose. However, she was on form in this one and overwhelmed her opponent with 48 winners (to Niculescu’s 5) in victory. “I expected it’s going to be, like, really slow, like I have to come in more often in the point. But it was fine. Yeah, I’m happy that I found the rhythm of my game on that court from the beginning.” she said about the conditions.
“I know she’s a power player. It’s going to be really difficult. She’s ranked what she is for a reason.” Boulter of her opponent. The best she can do really is to remain solid and serve well, hoping for an off day from her opponent. These are still more common than you’d hope for from a top 5 player who as of yet has not made a slam quarter final. The winner could play 32nd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova here, whose flat power hitting has been disposed with easily in the last two meetings with Sabalenka.
Prediction – Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets