Harriet Dart battles back to beat Katie Boulter in emotional Court One clash

Harriet Dart went from despair to joy as she beat compatriot Katie Boulter in a nail-biting encounter to reach the third round of Wimbledon.

Dart was in tears at the back of the court when she trailed 6-2 in the deciding tie-break but she clawed her way back to win 4-6 6-1 7-6 (8) after two hours and 57 minutes of tension on Court One.

It was a thoroughly merited win for Dart and one of the biggest of her career, with the 27-year-old into the last 32 here for the second time, where she will meet China’s Wang Xinyu, who upset fifth seed Jessica Pegula.

There has been tension between Boulter and Dart after recent matches between them but here they shared a hug at the net in recognition of the tightest of struggles.

The result will be hugely disappointing, though, for British number one Boulter, who made 75 unforced errors and struggled to find any rhythm throughout.

It was already guaranteed that Britain would have three women in the third round here for the first time in 40 years, with the winner joining Emma Raducanu and Sonay Kartal.

Boulter had reason to feel confident that would be her given her brilliant form over the last 13 months and six wins from seven previous matches against Dart.

Harriet Dart in tears
Harriet Dart tries to stop the tears (John Walton/PA)

But the last of those was a very tight three-setter in Nottingham last month and it was clear from the start that both players had carried an awful lot of nerves on to Court One with them.

Boulter held her nerve just a little bit better in the opening set, saving three break points in a long fourth game before taking her opportunity in the next one.

Dart was not helped by seven double faults but there were a lot of errors from both women.

Boulter’s boyfriend Alex De Minaur, fresh from easing into the third round, made it to the her box for the start of the second set hoping to see her join him.

But Boulter completely lost her way, spraying the ball all over the place and failing to hold serve once, while Dart had settled into some sort of rhythm.

Katie Boulter swings to hit a forehand
Katie Boulter struggled with unforced errors (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Boulter, who hit three winners in the second set compared with 16 unforced errors, headed off court for a bathroom break and improved at the start of the decider.

Things might have been different had she converted any of three break points at 2-1 but Dart held on and then finally took her sixth opportunity in a rollercoaster fourth game.

It is more than six years since Dart last beat Boulter but she was able to absorb her rival’s power while mixing up her tactics, while Boulter was still sending too many shots flying over the baseline.

Boulter coughed up another break point at 2-4 but the 32nd seed eventually held and then took advantage of Dart’s big weakness, her slow second serve, to get back on level terms.

Katie Boulter (left) and Harriet Dart embrace at the net
Katie Boulter (left) and Harriet Dart embrace at the net (John Walton/PA)

Dart continued to look the better player, seeing another break point come and go – she took just four of 18 during the match – but Boulter forced a deciding tie-break.

Dart was looking increasingly frustrated and emotional, and she was in tears at the back of the court when Boulter opened up a 6-2 lead.

But her despair was premature because Boulter lost her timing again and Dart restored parity before dropping her racket to the turf in disbelief when a final return from Boulter sailed long.