Battles of the Brits await with Draper v Norrie and Boulter v Dart

Estimated read time 6 min read

Considering there were 18 home players in the main draws this year, that there should be a couple of all-British clashes at Wimbledon is no statistical surprise. But there is no doubt that Thursday will be a special day as the top-ranked British players meet one another in round two of the men’s and women’s singles. Jack Draper, the new No 1 British man, will take on the No 2, Cameron Norrie, while the women’s No 1, Katie Boulter, meets the No 2, Harriet Dart. Just call it the Battles of Britain.

In the Open era, which began in 1968, there have been 19 all-British clashes in the men’s singles and 38 in the women’s event. The most recent all-British meeting in the women’s singles, though, was in 2011, when Anne Keothavong beat Naomi Broady, while Murray’s win over Ryan Peniston last year was the most recent home clash in the men’s event.

The last time the top two British men met in a grand slam was in 2002 at the Australian Open, when Tim Henman beat Greg Rusedski. It’s happened in the women’s game just once this century, at the US Open in 2020 when Johanna Konta beat Heather Watson.

British players relish the support they receive at Wimbledon, for obvious reasons. But playing a fellow Brit adds a little extra spice, even if they are friends off the court. For Draper, seeded at a grand slam for the first time, it is also the first time he has gone into a slam as the British No 1, a title he intends to hold on to.

“Obviously he won’t like the fact that I’m British No 1 now,” said Draper, 22, who praises 28-year-old Norrie for helping him settle on Tour. “I’m a lot younger. [Britain has] Dan [Evans] and Cam, Andy might be stopping soon. Dan and Cam definitely probably won’t like seeing me being British No 1. I think that creates a really healthy rivalry and environment.

“I think we have huge respect for each other, for one. We’ve practised together so many times, been a part of the Davis Cup together. I wouldn’t say we’re extremely close, but we definitely support each other. We definitely have a great relationship.”

Norrie is as unassuming a character off the court as he is feisty on it, but he insists he is only concerned with trying to win the match for himself, rather than to make a point. Doing it won’t be easy, though, with his own form patchy while Draper won his first title in Stuttgart and then eat Carlos Alcaraz at Queen’s. The younger player will be the favourite.

“I actually can’t wait for the match,” Norrie said. “It’s been a while since I played another Brit. He’s at the top of his game, playing with so much confidence, moving so well, serving rockets. I’m looking forward to it.”

The British 2019 Fed Cup women’s team pose together holding the Union JackView image in fullscreen

Boulter and Dart have played each other seven times, with Boulter winning six of them. The pair have been embroiled in a couple of tense battles on grass and, in Nottingham last summer, had an altercation after the match when Dart accused Boulter of being “unprofessional” for pointing to her temple after clinching match point. Boulter responded by saying: “I do it every match.”

“We’re teammates, we played big tournaments, we’ve grown up together, we’ve been close,” Dart said. “It’s always going to be tricky, especially when you play a fellow Brit. But it’s great to see that all of us are doing well and putting ourselves in positions where we do get to play each other, hopefully more so in the latter rounds. She’s been having an amazing year. She’s been playing great. I expect a very tough match.”

Boulter said there will be no secrets. “We both know each other’s games inside-out, back-to-front at this point,” she said. “We’ve played so many matches. But I do have to draw on the last things that I have played with her and use that to my advantage. I think it’s going to be extremely tough. I have a lot of respect for her on this surface. It’s one of her favourite ones.”

Sonay delight

One career-best performance followed another for Sonay Kartal here on Wednesday as the 22-year-old became the first British qualifier to reach the third round of the women’s singles since Karen Cross in 1997, defeating Clara Burel, the 29th seed, in three sets, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3, writes Greg Wood.

Kartal will now face Coco Gauff in the next round on Friday, and while the No 2 seed is unlikely to be as generous on serve as Burel, the British No 9 will be encouraged by her recovery from a distinct wobble in the middle of the second set which allowed her opponent to level the match.

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Kartal did not serve a single ace in any of her 15 service games, but her overall first-serve percentage of 64% reached 76% in a deciding set in which she made just two unforced errors.

The ability to raise her game when she needed it most proved decisive, as Burel slid to defeat with 18 unforced errors in the third set, and no fewer than 61 overall, including eight double faults to just one from Kartal.

While the bare numbers were impressive, Kartal will take greater inspiration from her response to losing the second set. She appeared to be coasting to victory as she served at 3-0 with two breaks, but her French opponent clawed her way back to 4-4 and, while Kartal saved two set points in a brave hold at 4-5, a third break for Burel at 5-6 ensured that the match would go to a decider.

“I’m super-proud of today’s performance, I managed to keep a level head throughout the match,” Kartal said. “The fact of the year I’ve had [which forced her to go through qualifying after suffering from undisclosed health problems], there’s so much effort and time gone into that.”

Kartal’s first visit to one of Wimbledon’s show courts was with her parents as a child, while the next will be for her match against the reigning US Open champion.

Sonay Kartal returns a backhand in the second roundView image in fullscreen

“We were on Centre Court, we got lucky with really good tickets, I think I was seven, maybe,” she said. “To be able to walk on to one of those courts will be a dream come true.”

Kartal was the only British player to win on day three after Dan Evans failed to turn around his match with Alejandro Tabilo, which was suspended on Tuesday evening with the No 24 seed already a set to the good.

Evans staged a stirring fightback from 0-40 in the eighth game of the second set but surrendered the set with two double faults from deuce at 5-6 and never threatened to stage a revival as the third set slipped away 6-3.


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