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Katie Boulter blown away as British interest ends in Miami

Katie Boulter serves
Katie Boulter was blown away by former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka - Al Bello/Getty Images

Katie Boulter was blown out of the Miami Open by a combination of a gusting wind and a surging Victoria Azarenka – but she can still take some encouragement that she reached the fourth round of a 1000-point tournament for the first time.

Having received a first-round bye, Boulter overcame Brenda Fruhvirtova and then took out 11th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia for her eighth top-50 win of the season. That is more than in her previous six years on the tour.

Playing Azarenka was always going to be a challenge in such tempestuous conditions. Boulter’s best chance was to be the aggressor – something that became much harder when the ball danced around in the wind.

In early trouble at 5-2 down, Boulter could hear the victory speech of her boyfriend Alex de Minaur – the world No 10 from Australia – drifting over from the court next door after he ousted Jan-Lennard Struff in straight sets.

Perhaps Boulter drew inspiration from this accidental eavesdropping, because she fought back to 5-5, and then had a break point to go 6-5. This break point looks crucial in hindsight, although it wasn’t dramatic at the time. Azarenka hit a strong first serve, which didn’t come back, and then gave a huge fist-pump in acknowledgement of a tide-turning moment.

After missing her next couple of returns, Boulter was then broken again to give up the set and she faded quickly to a 7-5, 6-1 defeat in 1hr 47min.

The stats suggest Azarenka’s superior serving performance was critical. Despite a high ball-toss, which you might think would be a liability in these conditions, she was able to work around the challenges presented by the wind and struck five aces in the match.

Boulter’s serve can be a real weapon when it is working, but it never got going here, returning five double-faults and inflicting little damage on Azarenka’s metronomic game.

Boulter’s departure leaves Great Britain without any singles representatives in Miami. The so-called Sunshine Double – which starts with Indian Wells – has not been particularly kind to the British contingent, with nobody managing to string more than two victories together at either tournament.

All these players will now have to refocus for the clay, which can be another difficult time of year. Most of Britain’s youngsters grow up on fast indoor courts, which teach them to deflect the ball with their hands rather than develop the physicality required by slower surfaces.

Cameron Norrie is probably the man best-suited to the challenge, thanks to the heavy top-spin on his lefty forehand, but 22-year-old Jack Draper also showed promise in Monaco and Lyon last year before injuring his serving shoulder in the build-up to the French Open.

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