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Boulter reveals key to overcoming Just Stop Oil protest at Wimbledon

Katie Boulter believes a cool head and laser-focused mentality helped her block out a Just Stop Oil protest and battle from behind to book her place in the second round at Wimbledon.

The British No.1, 26, beat Australian Daria Saville 7-6(4) 6-2 on Wednesday afternoon in a dramatic, disturbance-delayed encounter on Court 18.

Boulter trailed 4-2 in a first set tie-break against her lower-ranked opponent when a second Just Stop Oil protest of the day postponed play for several minutes.

Mirroring their exploits on the same court during Grigor Dimitrov’s triumph against Sho Shimabukuro two hours earlier, a protester invaded the premises and threw orange-coloured confetti and jigsaw pieces from a ‘Centre Court View’ puzzle box all over the playing surface.

After the protester was escorted off by police, Boulter and her opponent, 29, helped court stewards and ball boys clear the debris before the contest resumed around 10 minutes later.

And the impromptu delay seemed to work wonders for Boulter, who stirringly turned the tables to win the next five points in the tie-break and storm into a one-set lead before breezing to a comfortable victory in the second.

The world No.89 admits the timing of the stoppage may have swayed the momentum and maintaining a level-headed mindset reaped major rewards.

Boulter, who will take on Bulgarian and world No.99 Viktoriya Tomova in the second round, said: “There were a lot of emotions because I didn’t really know what to do in that situation – it’s not something I’ve been through before.

“Naturally, my first instinct would have been to try and help get everything off the court.

“But at the same time, I have to remind myself to focus, to keep in the moment and keep trying to keep my eye on the ball and not drop it.

“It’s a really key moment for us – I had to win the next point or else there’s a lot of air between us.

“I tried to keep myself very level-headed and stay as focused as I could.

“I’m not really sure if [the timing] helped or not – obviously I won a lot of points after that.

“It was a really tough moment for both of us and a bit of a shock to the system.

“We really didn’t know what to do in that situation but I think we both handled it really well – it’s never happened before to me.

“I stayed and kept my head really good in that time frame as it was a crucial point – that then gave me momentum going forward.

“I really had to work hard to focus on myself and stay in the moment – I felt like I did really well to get through it.”

All England Club security had been on red alert after Just Stop Oil’s high-profile interventions during the second Ashes Test at Lord’s, Grand National, Premiership Rugby final and World Snooker Championships.

But shortly after 2pm on day three of the Championships at SW19, two protesters struck during Dimitrov’s straight sets triumph over Shimabukuro on Court 18 – with play in that match delayed for considerably longer than Boulter’s clash owing to a subsequent rain delay.

Echoing Andy Murray’s comments earlier this week, Boulter admits she sympathises with Just Stop Oil’s cause but believes there are better ways for them to vent their environmental grievances.

She added: “It’s not my field of expertise and I don’t know enough about it.

“I would say that I think we all sympathise with what they’re going through completely – but at the same time, I don’t know if it’s the right place or time.

“When I think back to people who have sat here for 30 hours trying to watch tennis, it’s really tough and I sympathise with all of them.

“For me as a player, my job is to try and play tennis and, in a way, put on a show – so I’m going to stick to that.”

Boulter’s clash against Saville was delayed by over 24 hours owing to rain after the Princess of Wales had been in attendance to watch her trail 6-5 in the first set on Tuesday.

And the Leicester player added: “I didn’t notice [Kate] was there until later on in the match, like one of the last games before it rained.

“It was difficult and been quite a time frame – I haven’t played a match like this in a long time where I’ve been on and off for rain in terms of this extended period of time.”

Boulter was the only British player to win their match on Wednesday as Jodie Burrage, the nation’s No.2, suffered a heavy second round defeat.

Burrage, who toppled American Caty McNally on Monday, kicked off proceedings on a packed-out Centre Court but could only muster two games against Russian player and 11th seed Daria Kasatkina.

The 24-year-old said: “Obviously it’s not the result that I wanted – but it was a good experience.

“You dream to be out on Centre Court and it was so exciting – but in the same breath, you’ve got to deal with those nerves as well.

“I wish I could have settled a little bit earlier today – but you’ve got to go through these experiences to feel more comfortable in the next ones.”

Elsewhere in the women’s draw, experienced British No.5 Heather Watson, 31, went down in straight sets against Czech ace and tenth seed Barbora Krejcikova.

And from the next generation of domestic talent, Sonay Kartal – a decade younger than former world No.38 Watson – suffered a similarly comprehensive defeat against 25th seed Madison Keys.

On the men’s side of the draw, 20-year-old Arthur Fery made world No.3 Daniil Medvedev work hard in the first set before eventually succumbing to a 7-5 6-4 6-3 defeat.

And in another clash between a British minnow and high-profile international star, George Loffhagen, 22, also suffered a straight sets defeat against world No.6 Holger Rune.

Liam Broady, 29, and Jan Choinski, 27, were due to play their second round matches on Wednesday but will now take to the court today against world No.4 Casper Ruud and 17th seed Hubert Hurkacz in their pursuit of reaching the last 32.

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