Katie Boulter well beaten by defending Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina

Katie Boulter well beaten by defending Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina

Katie Boulter was blown away by defending champion Elena Rybakina as British singles interest at Wimbledon came to an end in the third round.

Boulter cemented her new-found status as British number one by reaching the last 32 for a second successive year, and there were high hopes she could at least give third seed Rybakina a match.

Boulter has shown many times that she loves the big stage but, having waited until nearly 9pm to walk out on Centre Court following two lengthy matches and a rain delay, she managed to detain Rybakina for only 56 minutes in a 6-1 6-1 hammering.

Katie Boulter hits a forehand
Katie Boulter hits a forehand (Adam Davy/PA)

After some positive results earlier in the week it has been a chastening two days for British tennis, with Andy Murray, Cameron Norrie and Liam Broady all falling on Friday.

Boulter pulled off the best win of her career in the second round here last year, defeating former finalist Karolina Pliskova, and in seven previous matches against top-10 players had only failed to win at least a set on one occasion.

She handled her status as favourite well to see off Daria Saville and Viktoriya Tomova in the first two rounds and was looking forward to having a crack at the defending champion.

Rybakina was a significant step up but the Kazakh had been shaky at times in her opening two rounds having come into the tournament under prepared because of illness.

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina swept into round four (Adam Davy/PA)

She possesses probably the fiercest strike in the women’s game, though, as well as the best serve following Serena Williams’ retirement, and she hit her stride straight away.

Boulter has been working on adding more variety to her flat-hitting game but with options can come indecision and a couple of ill-advised drop shots cost her a break of serve for 3-1.

First-strike tennis usually favours Boulter but the power coming from Rybakina’s racket, particularly on her serve, was on another level.

The third seed, who remarkably is the first women’s defending champion to reach the fourth round here since Williams back in 2016, broke again for 5-1 and wrapped up the first set in 26 minutes.

Boulter’s support camp, including boyfriend Alex De Minaur, tried to lift her, and she halted the run of games against her at seven by holding for 1-2 in the second set.

That was as good as it got, though, with the score the same as last year’s third round, when Boulter lost to Frenchwoman Harmony Tan.

It has nevertheless been a positive fortnight and a transformative grass-court season for Boulter, who will be ranked just outside the top 70 on Monday and now has the chance to really push on.