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The secrets of Katie Boulter’s rise: Andy Murray’s fitness trainer and ultra-competitive boyfriend

Katie Boulter and boyfriend Alex de Minaur/The secrets of Katie Boulter's rise: Andy Murray's fitness trainer and ultra-competitive boyfriend
When not on the tour, Boulter lives in south-west London with her boyfriend and fellow professional player Alex de Minaur - Heathcliff O'Malley

Britain’s new tennis No 1 Katie Boulter says she is going into Indian Wells this week with a “free swing”, as she continues her Californian odyssey.

Having landed the biggest title of her career in San Diego on Sunday, Boulter made the two-and-a-half-hour drive into the desert around Palm Springs, where she is preparing for the tournament informally known as “the fifth slam”.

At this stage last year, she was the world No 151, and lost in the second round of the Indian Wells qualifying event. Now she returns at No 27 – the highest-ranked Briton, either male or female, on the charts.

“I’ve given myself the best opportunity to set myself up for the rest of the year and I’ve got a free swing,” said Boulter, as she prepared for a first-round meeting with Italian big-hitter Camila Giorgi on either Wednesday or Thursday. “I don’t really have too much pressure.”

This comes down to the rolling nature of the tennis rankings system. Boulter had a quiet spring last year, points-wise, which means that she has little to defend until June. That is when her 2023 season really kicked off via the capture of a maiden WTA title in Nottingham.

Yet while Boulter might not have been lighting up the main tour over the early months of last season, she was quietly gathering victories on the second-tier ITF circuit, where she reached a final and a semi-final in a pair of Japanese events in May.

In hindsight, this readiness to drop down a level and pick up some confidence-boosting wins looks like a masterstroke. Emma Raducanu spoke about doing something similar after the Australian Open, but ultimately seems too wedded to the glamour of the big events to go through with the idea.

Boulter now stands at No16 in the WTA Race – which only counts rankings points gained this season – and her dramatic improvement gives an idea of what can be achieved with full commitment. In the off-season, she signed up with Andy Murray’s fitness trainer Matt Little: a partnership that has tangibly improved her physical stability and movement out of the corners.

It may help that she has a role model in her own house in south-west London: her Australian boyfriend Alex de Minaur, who is one of the hardest-working men on the tour. Speaking shortly after her victory over Marta Kostyuk in Sunday’s final, Boulter said “He [De Minaur] had an incredible week himself. I think I’ll begin to process it in the next couple of days but what he’s done is insane: to win back-to-back titles, that’s what I aspire to be like.”

Katie Boulter gained the biggest victory of her career in winning the San Diego Open
Katie Boulter gained the biggest victory of her career in winning the San Diego Open - Getty Images/Sean M Haffey

For a couple to win titles on the same weekend is not unknown. (Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors did it at Wimbledon in 1974, and Lleyton Hewitt and Kim Clijsters at Indian Wells in 2003.) But it is extremely rare.

“I think that is very cool,” said Boulter on Monday when she was asked about this statistic. “I had no idea of the people who had done it and to share something with my other half is something that I won’t forget.”

One unfortunate detail, from the perspective of equality, is that the two players took home very different pay cheques despite having won the same level of tournament. Boulter won £112,000 to De Minaur’s £325,000.

Asked about the disparity, she said: “I feel like there’s a lot of equality in our sport at the biggest events [the four slams, which pay equal prize money] and I really hope that the WTA can continue to bridge the gap at the other events.”

Their trophies were also very different. De Minaur received a giant Mexican hat in Acapulco, as well as a silver gourd, while Boulter came away with a crystal vase and a surfboard: something to remember her Californian trip by.

“We’re already debating where we’re going to put the surfboard in the house,” she said. “It’s going to take a few days to work that out, because the décor is not surfing.”

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