It has been a long time since close friends Katie Boulter and Freya Christie have met in competition, and their paths have taken very different direction over the years. For both, their 2020 came to an abrupt halt in March as the global pandemic took hold, but Christie has taken advantage of the British Tour over the last two weeks with five wins from eight matches.
If there was any rust from Boulter’s lock-down, it has not showed at all this week. She was impressive in her first two rounds, and things stepped up a gear against Jodie Burrage. In the first set it was Boulter calling the shots, but the second set saw a very spirited fight from Burrage, who eventually forced a tie-break, but just saw it slip away at the end.
Christie, in the reduced group after the withdrawal of Katie Swan started well, but gradually found herself ground down by Alicia Barnett, whose variety and the ability to get everything back took its toll on Christie.
Friday will see the battle of the big servers and heavy-hitters. Boulter, the former World No 82, has more experience but Christie (like Burrage) comes into this match with a lot of sharpness.
With Burrage pulling out of the doubles today, Christie could well benefit from the respite of no late doubles, but playing Boulter will be a step up from the last couple of weeks.
It has been a long few weeks too for Burrage and Barnett. Burrage is now on a 12 wins from 14 match swing, but perhaps the fatigue was beginning to set in, and the same can be said for Barnett.
She took Christie to three sets, and together with progression in the doubles, she is now going from point to point, much less match to match.
Burrage has been consistent throughout this tournament, taking a little time to warm up between her opener and her second round win, which looked much more convincing.
Barnett has really lived on her wits this week, and plays with a lot of variety and deftness at the net, and will really need to employ all that to get the win.
Prediction: Burrage in three sets.
Division One Semi-finals – Bissett is the one to watch
The stand-out player in the Division One matches this week has been 17-year-old Amelia Bissett. She has survived a slew of injury withdrawals and has yet to drop a set during the tournament, despite being tested in her last group stage match.
For the teenager, this week has been a bonus in being around the higher-ranked British players, saying after her second round-robin match: “I feel like I’m gaining a lot of experience, like speaking to the players in the Premier division as well. Just being around them and seeing them on court – it helps me a lot.”
How to watch the Progress Tour Women’s Championships
Matches are being shown on the LTA Channels and on BBC Digital Platforms.
Play starts at 11am (BST).
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