The fifth edition of the Nature Valley Open in Nottingham takes place next week, providing the first opportunity for the WTA players to feel the grass in preparations for the third Grand Slam of the season at Wimbledon. Ashleigh Barty, Caroline Garcia, Donna Vekic and Dayana Yastremska should lead the field and the home crowd will not be able to watch Katie Boulter who had to withdraw with an ongoing back injury.
A month ago, the young Briton announced she would skip Roland Garros and the entire clay season although she still signed to play in Paris, withdrawing after releasing the draw and picking up half of the first prize money which raised the controversy on social media and among some legends from the past, including Billie Jean King.
Ranked outside the top-170 a year ago, Boulter has made significant progress in the last 12 months, winning two ITF titles and playing in the quarter-final in Nottingham in front of the home fans. Katie entered the top-100 in October after another WTA quarter-final in Tianjin, hoping for an even better run in 2019.
The start of the new wasn't that good for the Leicester native who failed to achieve good results on the Tour in the first four months. Defending the national colors in Fed Cup, Katie gave her 120% in the historical run, beating Ivana Jorovic in February and earning the place in the team against Kazakhstan in the World Group II Play-Off at home in Copper Box Arena, London.
After a thrilling battle, Great Britain prevailed 3-1 to secure the place in the elite for the first time since 1993, led by Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter who propelled their country into the World Group II in 2020. Katie suffered a loss to Yulia Putintseva on an opening day after two hours and 31 minutes, wasting three match points and leaving the court devastated and broken, also with a severe back pain that made the loss even worse.
Despite that, the youngster left the pain and a tough defeat behind, opting to play on Sunday as well and battling past Zarina Diyas 6-7, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and 13 minutes to wrap up an overall win for Great Britain and start a huge celebration with the rest of the squad.
As it turned out, Katie had to pay a huge price for this effort, unable to play ever since and having to delay the start of the grass season after not stepping a foot on clay this spring. Boulter will try to make a comeback in Birmingham or Eastbourne and seek some form ahead of Wimbledon where she lost to Naomi Osaka in the second round a year ago.