LONDON, Great Britain - Forget laying about on the couch: with no tennis to play, 23-year-old Katie Boulter will be spending her time in lockdown volunteering for Age UK, an organization dedicated to supporting older British people amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to a group of journalists via Zoom from her apartment in London - which she shares with fellow British player Laura Robson - Boulter opened up on how the tennis break has affected her comeback from injury, and how she has turned to philanthropy to cope with being far away from her family.
“Personally I was pretty sad because I felt like I had finally got my game to a really good place and I was ready to compete,” Boulter recently told journalists.
Currently ranked World No.374, Boulter had once climbed as high as No.82 in her breakthrough 2018 season, which saw her reach two WTA-level quarterfinals in Nottingham and Tianjin. But she suffered a major setback last year, picking up a spinal stress fracture during her country’s Fed Cup victory in April, and was forced to sit out the rest of the 2019 - missing out on her beloved Wimbledon.
But just as Boulter was settling into her comeback, she found herself having to put the racquets away again: days after posting her first Top 100 win of the year against No.60 Anna Blinkova at Indian Wells 125K, the tennis season was suspended as a result of the pandemic.
“I was fully fit and raring to go,” Boulter said. “It was unfortunate timing for me. But things are going to get thrown at you and just have to use them in the best possible way that you can.”
To make up for the lack of matches, Boulter revealed that she’s been training on clay courts at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton in order to build up her fitness and endurance.
But while nothing makes up for not being able to visit family, Boulter has found a way to keep them close. She opened up on being unable to visit her grandparents, in particular her 84-year-old grandfather Brian Gartshore, who lives more than 100 miles away in Leicestershire.
“It's been pretty hard for me [that] I can't go and see them,” she admitted. It’s also made her more aware of how isolated some older people have been during the current lockdowns, so she’s signed up to volunteer with Age UK, where she’ll build a relationship with three UK seniors.
We're so happy to have @KatieBoulter1 on board as a volunteer for @AgeUKHF, helping to support older people during the coronavirus crisis.— Age UK (@age_uk) June 5, 2020
We're really looking forward to you getting started, Katie! 💜 #VolunteersWeekhttps://t.co/msEv06rRm5
“I have a close relationship with my grandpa, so it makes me feel better if I can help them during this difficult time,” Boulter explained. She has been training with the organization in preparation of her start date.
“You can either go and see them, talk to them over the phone, go and do their shopping for them and basically just try and help them make their lives a little bit easier. Hopefully they won’t be so lonely.”
Follow the WTA 4 Love campaign to learn more about how the tennis community is coming together during the COVID-19 pandemic..