PARIS—Leicester may best be known for its football club (and we’ll get to the Foxes in a bit), but the outskirts of this ancient city in the East Midlands have their own defining qualities.

“A lot of the greenery, a lot of the peacefulness when you wake up in the morning, the birds,” explains Katie Boulter, the Leicester-born 27-year-old. “I don’t think there’s many places in London where you get to hear that.”

One such place in the capital may be in the southwest, in its 19th postal district. This town is rich with verdant lawns, quaint traditions—and birds, too. Just ask Rufus the Hawk, employed there for a few weeks each summer to scare them away. Boulter’s idyllic description sounds very much like...Wimbledon, does it not?

Boulter is intimately familiar with both places, and that’s just one reason why she could soon make the All England Club a veritable home away from home. Not every top pro can handle what comes with Wimbledon, but for Boulter, it’s a tournament she’s been preparing for her entire life.


Growing up, Boulter learned the sport from her mother, a tennis coach at Leicestershire Lawn Tennis Club. She vividly remembers playing on its grass courts, an experience only a scant percentage of young players can relate to.

“You’ve got to maintain them—it’s not easy,” Boulter says of the uncommon playing surface. “To have the privilege of having a couple [grass] courts, I thought that was amazing.”

Sitting down for a chat in the media center at Roland Garros, she then immediately recalled another formative memory.

“I remember, every single year, the club championships, which were always massive. Everyone would get together and just compete. I love the environment of that, and I think it’s something that really got me into tennis.”


Boulter was a quick study, reaching an Orange Bowl final at 14 and playing her first professional tournaments a year later. In October 2018, she cracked the WTA Top 100 for the first time.

But a spinal stress fracture, suffered while playing Fed Cup for Great Britain in April 2019, halted her upward momentum. She was sidelined until November, then played just three main-draw, tour-level matches in 2020, due to measured recovery and, of course, the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Personally I was pretty sad because I felt like I had finally got my game to a really good place and I was ready to compete,” Boulter told journalists that fateful year, in a Zoom-mandated press gathering.


In addition to effectively being taken of the court, the inability to visit her grandfather and loved ones during the lockdown added to Boulter’s struggles.

“I spent a lot of my childhood walking in the forest with my family—that was something we would do every weekend,” Boulter says. “For me it was quite therapeutic.”

Boulter finished the 2020 season ranked No. 365—just three ranking spots higher than where she finished four years earlier. It was a full-circle moment that no player with Boulter’s aspirations and talent wants to experience.


We’re known for being competitive fighters, and I definitely feel like I emulate that. Katie Boulter

Ever since, Boulter hasn’t finished a season lower than where she started. From No. 148 in 2021 to No. 124 in 2022 all the way to No. 58 in 2023, a healthier and happier Boulter has become the clear-cut British women’s No. 1. She capped her ascendance into the Top 100 with her first tour-level title—on grass, naturally, in Nottingham.

Boulter ascribes her ability to bounce back to another part of her upbringing: the Leicester City Football Club.

“I see myself as a Fox,” Boulter says earnestly, referring to the club’s moniker. “They’re fighters, they keep on going.

“I think I’ve been through a lot of adversity on and off the court, and them on the pitch as well.”


A scene Leicester City fans, and Boulter, will never forget.

A scene Leicester City fans, and Boulter, will never forget.

In 2016, the Foxes overthrew England’s ruling football class in a season that seems improbable to this day. From 1992, when the Premier League was formed, to 2015, just five clubs had ever lifted the championship: Blackburn Rovers (once, in 1995), Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City—the latter four affluent franchises effectively monopolizing the sport. The Foxes’ 2014-15 campaign saw them finish 14th in the Premier League, its best finish in England’s top flight since 2001.

What did Leicester do for an encore? It won the whole damn league. Before that magical season began, sportsbooks had the Foxes at 5,000 to 1 to finish first. That is not a typo.

“We’re known for being competitive fighters,” says Boulter, “and I definitely feel like I emulate that.”


Putting a bet on Boulter to win Wimbledon in a few weeks’ time won’t be anything close to the longshot Leicester was—but should it happen, it would feel seismic. That’s because the WTA’s ruling class has combined to win eight of the last nine Grand Slam tournaments. Iga Swiatek has separated herself from everyone, but US Open champion Coco Gauff and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka are nearly guarantees to go deep at big events. World No. 4 Elena Rybakina—just two years removed from winning Wimbledon herself—rounds out this impressive string quartet.

Boulter has never been beyond the third round at SW19, but she will have more going for her this year than ever. First and foremost: form. Currently ranked 31st, she’s expected to have a valuable number next to her name as a seed, thereby avoiding potentially perilous early-round match-ups.

“It’s another year that I’m going in, but a completely different situation for me,” Boulter says. “This time last year, I was going in with a ranking of probably 150 [Editor’s Note: Boulter began the 2023 grass-court season ranked 125th]; this year, I’m going in with a Top 30 ranking.

“It just gives me a reminder as to how far I’ve come.”


Boulter got off to a fast start in the new season.

Boulter got off to a fast start in the new season.

The year started “with a bang” before it technically began. On December 31, at the United Cup in Australia, Boulter earned her first-ever Top 5 win.

Down a set and a double break to American Jessica Pegula, Boulter began her push—and eventually prevailed, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

“The biggest of her career without a shadow of a doubt,” said Tennis Channel’s Jason Goodall on the broadcast.

“It’s wins like that that can change a career.” Jason Goodall on Katie Boulter

“That was a huge moment for me,” Boulter said in Paris. “We all put our best efforts into the preseason, but we honestly don’t know what’s going to come out the other side.

“I think I learned a lot from that match. I went for it. It did kind of show me that I can be at that level. It really does help you, going into the rest of the season, to show that you’re on the right track.”


Since then: two more tournament victories, including a title defense in Nottingham. (With her grandfather in attendance to boot ⬆️) Boulter acknowledged that returning to the site of her breakthrough would be a “huge moment,” but she somehow managed to exceed expectations. On the final Sunday, she won twice: completing a semifinal comeback over resurgent compatriot Emma Raducanu—after dropping a 15-13 tiebreaker on Saturday—and shortly after, over 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova.

(Raducanu’s US Open title run in 2021, as a qualifier, might be tennis’ best comp to Leicester City’s Cinderella 2016.)

“To come out here and play some seriously good tennis and get over the line, I’m not entirely sure how I did it in the end,” Boulter said after her long and triumphant day on grass. “But I’ve gone back-to-back and I’m super proud of myself.”


It also marked the second time Boulter won a title on the same week as her boyfriend, Alex de Minaur. (“I forced him to take a picture in front of Leicester City stadium,” Boulter says.) The relationship has seemingly brought out the best in both players, each at or near career-high ranks.

Both should expect to receive ample support in 10 days’ time, from the patrons lounging on Henman Hill to those seated on show courts—where Boulter, perhaps Great Britain’s best chance at a singles champion, can expect to be scheduled.


“She’s kind of given me a different perspective on how to take results,” Alex de Minaur said of his relationship to fellow player Katie Boulter.

“She’s kind of given me a different perspective on how to take results,” Alex de Minaur said of his relationship to fellow player Katie Boulter.

“We actually had a week off a couple years ago where we literally just spent it at my house in middle of the countryside—quite detox, more than anything, because our lives are quite busy and hectic,” Boulter says about her and de Minaur. “For us I think it was a really nice downtime, and I think we’re definitely going to do it quite a few more times.”

After a successful Wimbledon, perhaps?

It would make for a banner summer in Leicester, whose beloved football team—a season after being relegated to the second tier of English football—just won promotion, and whose beloved tennis player could similarly level up.

“It’s really hard for me to predict the future,” Boulter says when asked about her grass-court prospects. “I’m putting in the work, and let’s see what happens.”