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Katie Boulter eyes higher rankings after San Diego triumph

Katie Boulter is determined to continue climbing the rankings after claiming the most illustrious title of her career.

The British number one defeated five top-40 players to win the San Diego Open, bringing her a first WTA 500 trophy and elevating her ranking to 27.

With Cameron Norrie slipping to 28, it means Boulter is the highest-ranked British singles player of either gender heading into the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, which begins on Wednesday.

The same week a year ago, Boulter was ranked outside the world's top 150, and she does not have many points to defend until the grass-court tournament in Nottingham in June, where last year she picked up her first WTA title.

"I feel like I've started the year very well and I've given myself the best opportunity to set myself up for the rest of the year," said 27-year-old Boulter.

"I've got a free swing, I don't really have too much pressure. I'm just here enjoying myself and working as hard as I possibly can with a great team. You never know what could happen so I'm looking forward to the rest of the year."

The weekend was made even more special for Boulter by the success of boyfriend Alex De Minaur, who successfully defended his title in Acapulco on Saturday before catching an early morning flight to cheer on the British star.

They join the likes of former couples Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert and Lleyton Hewitt and Kim Clijsters in winning titles on the same weekend, and Boulter said: "I think that is very cool.

"I had no idea other people had done it. To share something with my other half is going to be something that we won't forget."

While the two titles both earned their recipients 500 ranking points, De Minaur took home around £325,000 and Boulter just £112,000, highlighting the continuing disparity between the ATP and WTA Tour away from the biggest joint events.

Boulter has mixed feelings, saying: "I'm obviously very happy with my first WTA 500 title, not too many players can say that they've won a 500 so I feel very special.

"Regarding the prize money, I feel like there's a lot of equality in our sport in the biggest events. I really hope that the WTA can continue to help bridge the gap between the other events."

There is parity in Indian Wells, where the tours come together at a big event for the first time since the Australian Open.

Boulter's elevation to the top 30 comes too late to earn her a seeding and she will be back in action on Wednesday against dangerous Italian Camila Giorgi.

If she can maintain or improve her ranking through to the French Open and Wimbledon, she will earn herself a seeding, meaning she would not face a player in the top 32 until at least the third round.

"It's definitely an aim of mine," said Boulter. "I want to make sure that I can get as close to a seeding as possible. At the moment I'm in but it takes time to build more ranking points and to get myself to that place.

"Every single place in the ranking counts and I've just got to do my best because obviously it makes a difference as to who you play in the tournaments."

Boulter is joined in the Indian Wells draw by Emma Raducanu, who has been given a wild card and will take on a qualifier in the first round.

Raducanu enjoyed one of her best weeks in the Californian desert last year, defying the wrist problems that subsequently forced her to go under the knife to reach the fourth round.

Norrie has a bye in the men's event as the 28th seed while Andy Murray plays a qualifier, Jack Draper meets Christopher O'Connell and Dan Evans plays Roman Safiullin.

Rafael Nadal returns to the tour for the first time since suffering a muscle injury in Brisbane in January and will take on fellow veteran Milos Raonic, while Novak Djokovic makes his first appearance in Indian Wells for five years following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.

READ MORE: British star Katie Boulter claims maiden WTA 500 title with San Diego Open victory

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