Katie Boulter booked her place in her first WTA Tour final against Jodie Burrage and ensured she will return to the top 100 by beating compatriot Heather Watson at the Nottingham Open.
Boulter has cemented her new British No 1 status this week, beating Harriet Dart in the quarter-finals on Thursday and now getting the better of Watson with a 6-4 7-5 victory.
She will face compatriot Jodie Burrage in what is only the third all-British final in the 50-year history of the WTA Tour.
History for British women in Nottingham
In the 50 years of the WTA Tour, the only previous all-British finals saw Sue Barker and Virginia Wade split victories in Paris in 1975 and San Francisco two years later.
The 26-year-old, from nearby Leicestershire, went into the week ranked 126 but has guaranteed she will be back in the top 100 next week for the first time since 2019.
Boulter said: “It means so much to me, especially here. It was a really tough match. I just tried to put my heart on the line and managed to get through it in the end.
“I’ve worked so hard for this, me and my team. I’m just going to keep plugging away and, even if this isn’t my moment, that’s OK.”
At that stage, Boulter looked set to push on towards the top 50, only for a stress fracture in her back to rule her out for seven months, and her progress has been stuttering since.
This was the first all-British semi-final at tour level since Sue Barker and Virginia Wade used to meet regularly in the latter stages of tournaments in the 1970s.
Grass suits Boulter’s hard, flat hitting and she broke the Watson serve to lead 3-2 before a rain delay of an hour-and-a-half disrupted things.
Watson immediately broke back on the resumption, but, with both women complaining about line calls, Boulter moved ahead again before clinching the set.
Watson looked set to take it to a decider when she led 4-1 in the second set, but Boulter saved four break points in the sixth game to stay in contention and won six of the last seven games.
There had been tension between Boulter and Dart at the net over the former’s celebration, but here the two players shared a lengthy hug.
“I’m hungry to go play Birmingham, I’m hungry for the tournaments after that. I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to just win a couple of matches, I’ve got more to come,” said Boulter, who can set a new career-high ranking in the top 80 if she can emulate Johanna Konta and the late Elena Baltacha – after whom the trophy is named – by winning the title.
“It’s so good to be back (in the top 100) and I really hope it’s a stepping stone to pushing back in and really giving it a shot, because I felt I didn’t get a full chance when I was ranked 80.
“I wanted to play a full year where I could have a swing and see what happens.”
Burrage is also enjoying the best week of her career having never previously made a WTA quarter-final, and she produced another hugely impressive performance to beat France’s Alize Cornet 7-5 7-5.
It was a topsy-turvy contest featuring 10 breaks of serve but Burrage made her extra power count.
“I wasn’t expecting this coming into this week,” said Burrage, 24. “But I’m very, very happy with my performance today. It’s going to be an amazing day tomorrow. What an amazing tournament for both of us.”
Burrage would break the top 100 for the first time and overtake Boulter as British No 1 should she lift the trophy.
That would put both in a strong position to qualify for future grand slams by right, and Boulter said: “We were maybe a little bit too early to put some negative stuff out.
“It’s very easy to focus on one or two tournaments but I think, bigger picture, we’re in a great place and I’m happy to say that and stand by it.”
In the 50 years of the WTA Tour, the only previous all-British finals saw Sue Barker and Virginia Wade split victories in Paris in 1975 and the Virginia Slims of San Francisco two years later.