Katie Boulter has come ‘full circle’ as GB return to Copper Box for BJK Cup tie

Katie Boulter feels she has come “full circle” as she prepares to lead Great Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup team in this weekend’s play-off against Sweden at the Copper Box.

It was at the same venue four and a half years ago that Boulter secured victory over Kazakhstan to put Britain back at the elite level of the competition formerly known as Fed Cup.

But she suffered a stress fracture in her back that kept her out for more than six months and sent her ranking plummeting out of the top 100.

It has taken until this year for Boulter to get back to and now surpass that level, and at 58 in the world she is by some distance the highest-ranked player in the tie.

“It really was something that stuck in my memory for many, many years,” said Boulter of the Kazakhstan clash.

“But I think I see the positives and the negatives of that tie. I really do. And I learned a lot from the situation that I was in, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

“It’s a full circle for me. I’m glad to be back here, and I don’t think I’d be in the position I am right now if it wasn’t for that tie. So I’m glad to be back here with a great team behind me.”

Jodie Burrage will make her debut in the competition
Jodie Burrage will make her debut in the competition (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Boulter has been sharing her memories of that weekend with her good friend Jodie Burrage, who will make a long-awaited debut in the competition.

Burrage, ranked 93, has been unlucky to miss out in previous ties, and she said: “I’ve absolutely loved this week. The vibe’s been great. I’m really happy that (captain) Anne (Keothavong) has trusted me to play tomorrow and I will go out there and do my absolute best to come away with the win.

“It’s just a really proud moment for me, walking out on the court tomorrow, but once I get that done then it’ll be all down to business. Playing at home as well in this arena, the girls told me that this is one of the best places that they have played, so I can’t wait to experience that tomorrow.”

This time last year Britain were on their way to a historic semi-final appearance in the competition having been given a wild card for the final stages as hosts in Glasgow.

Great Britain captain Anne Keothavong signs autographs for local schoolchildren at the Copper Box
Great Britain captain Anne Keothavong signs autographs for local schoolchildren at the Copper Box (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Defeat by France in Coventry in April meant they missed out this year and they must beat Sweden to have another shot at qualifying in 2024.

Anything but victory would be a disaster given the visitors are without their only two top-200 players in Rebecca Peterson and Mirjam Bjorklund, who both withdrew through injury.

Instead, they are relying on world number 372 Kajsa Rinaldo Persson, who will take on Burrage first up on Saturday, and 532nd-ranked Caijsa Hennemann.

Keothavong insisted there will be no complacency, saying: “There’s absolutely no room for that, and I think we’ve seen in this competition that anything’s possible. This team need to go out there and impose themselves. You can’t underestimate anyone out there.

Great Britain’s Jodie Burrage, Katie Boulter and captain Anne Keothavong during the draw
Great Britain’s Jodie Burrage, Katie Boulter and captain Anne Keothavong during the draw (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“These are the kinds of ties we want, on home soil with a full house. The players know what they need to do and hopefully they’re going to go out there tomorrow and execute it.

“I think all of us collectively are motivated to get back into the world group because we know what we’re capable of as a team. When we come together, we really do rise to the challenge.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s junior Billie Jean King Cup team reached the semi-finals of the under-16 competition with a 3-0 victory over Sweden and will play the Czech Republic for a place in the final.

At the senior finals in Seville, the Czech Republic defeated the USA in a heavyweight clash to book their passage through to the last four.

Danielle Collins defeated Katerina Siniakova to give the US the lead but Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova easily saw off Sofia Kenin and Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova claimed the deciding doubles.

The Czechs will face Canada on Saturday while surprise packages Slovenia and Italy meet in the other semi-final.