EXCLUSIVE TENNIS INTERVIEWS
EXCLUSIVE TENNIS INTERVIEWS
Matthew Ogborn chats to British tennis stars Katie Swan and Katie Boulter…
It’s an exciting time in south west London for tennis fans, with two key tournaments on our doorsteps over the summer. At the Surbiton Trophy in June, British tennis star Katie Swan arrived confident of impressing the home fans on her return to grass. With the majority of the attention focused on two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and Dan Evans in the men’s draw, she buckled down in the hot weather to reel off a string of victories that saw her reach the final and nearly claim the British number one spot after compatriot Katie Boulter’s semi-final defeat.
Both players are amongst a crop of promising young British women, alongside the likes of 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu, Jodie Burrage and Harriet Dart. All five players were in the top 150 in the world after Surbiton with 26-year old Boulter leading the WTA rankings charge. I caught up with Swan and Boulter after the Surbiton quarter-finals where both women were looking forward to what lies ahead at Wimbledon.
Twenty-four-year-old Swan grew up in Bristol, which is where she began to play tennis before a move to Wichita across the Atlantic – due to her father’s work in the oil industry – saw her develop her game further in college. In 2016, Swan became the youngest British player in Fed Cup history aged 16 years and 316 days when she beat Ilze Hattingh 6–3, 6–0. 2018 saw her come under Murray’s wing at 77 Sports Management and a maiden Wimbledon win, thanks to her wildcard defeat of world No. 36 Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round. It wasn’t until the back end of the 2022 season, though, that she won her first $60k event at the Lexington Challenger in August – defeating Burrage in three sets – before making the semi-finals of the elite WTA Indian Open in September where she had to retire due to illness.
The Surbiton Trophy run that also included victories over number one seed Tatjana Maria and fellow Brit Yuriko Lily Miyazaki gave her a huge boost ahead of the rest of the British grass-court season leading into July’s iconic Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament.
When all the world’s tennis fans are watching what’s happening in SW19, it’s quite some pressure. How does Swan shoulder the weight of expectation from British fans – is it as a collective group on the women’s side or does she focus individually? “I think we all do a really good job to support each other. Last year we saw so many of the Brits have a great grass-court season and everyone was just riding that wave of positive energy. Playing in front of a home crowd helps a lot. Personally, I just try and take it day by day and just do my best. It starts off court, it starts in practice. I had a great couple of weeks training coming into Surbiton, so I was feeling really confident. I am glad that I have been able to perform well.” Having just come off the clay-court season, she has had her work cut out in terms of making the transition to a grass surface. She tells us: “You have to prepare the body mainly. It is completely different movements. On grass, you have to be a lot lower, so you have really got to strengthen your glutes and quads. For me that is just working in the gym first and then transferring that on to the court, but also having good treatment after practices because you are so sore after the first few days.” Swan lives in the US but is relishing being back to play in the UK. “I love playing here at home. I love having the support. Everyone thrives off it. I am really looking forward to the rest of the grass season. I want the British fans to get out there and support us. It is a pretty exciting time, especially the girls. We are making a push and I think you could see some big wins out there.
As for Boulter, the Leicester native told Time & Leisure: “The depth of British tennis at the moment is getting better and better. I really hope that the girls perform week in and week out, because I think the talent is all there. It is just getting the results that we need. Emma’s story is a fairytale and I think we all believe or hope that it is going to be us but the reality of tennis is that it is not a sprint, it is a marathon and you have to keep reminding yourself of that.
“Keep working hard and keep your head down, and ultimately you will get there eventually if you put the work in. It is not easy because you don’t get that every single week, you have to find that spirit and the same buzz that you can’t get in Japan, France or wherever you might be. To have it behind you here and lifting you up from the first point is really special.”
Image: left – Katie Swan, right – Katie Boulter. Getty Images for LTA