If Katie Boulter needed any convincing that her star is on the rise then the start of 2019 should certainly have convinced her.
After taking on Serena Williams and Roger Federer at the Hopman Cup, the 22-year-old has now been signed up by the same management company as David Beckham and Neymar.
Boulter, who will make her overseas grand slam debut at the Australian Open on Monday, will be managed by KIN Partners, and managing director Simon Oliveira said: “Katie is an exceptional young talent and we are delighted to be partnering with her.
“Katie had a great 2018 and we look forward to being a part of her journey both on and off the court as her career progresses.”
Last season saw Boulter hit a number of important firsts, including a victory at Wimbledon and then, in October, the breakthrough into the top 100 that also booked her place in the main draw in Melbourne.
“I’ve had my eye on this tournament for a long time,” she said. “It was a huge goal for me last year so to achieve it is great and a big confidence boost for me so hopefully I can use that on Monday and hopefully get a win.”
Boulter will use as inspiration the week she spent in Perth at the Hopman Cup, an international event pitting mixed teams against each other.
Boulter and Cameron Norrie were in the same group as Federer’s Switzerland and Williams’ USA and, although Boulter did not win a singles match, the pair claimed two doubles victories to win ties against the US and Greece.
Boulter gave a good account of herself against Williams, eventually losing 6-1 7-6(2).
“It was pretty scary actually,” she said. “She’s been an idol for me my entire life – someone I watched from stage one. To be on the other side of the court was such an honour and a privilege, to see such an amazing player who has accomplished so much, it was definitely an inspiration.
“I learnt so much just from being around those players for a week. We had the New Year’s Eve gala and I was actually sat next to her answering some questions and stuff. She’s always lovely and a really sweet girl. Hopefully I can use that week and build on it for the rest of this year.”
Boulter has a tricky first-round assignment against experienced Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who usually reserves her best form for the grand slams.
The eight British singles representatives on the whole have not been blessed with favourable draws and the prospects for any of them going beyond the first week look challenging.
The good news for Kyle Edmund and Johanna Konta, who should be Britain’s two best hopes given Sir Andy Murray’s struggles, is that they both look to have overcome early-season injury niggles.
Edmund, back at the scene of last year’s semi-final run, suffered a shock loss to Yasutaka Uchiyama in Brisbane last week before pulling out of the tournament in Sydney with a knee problem.
“It’s a lot better than it was,” said the world number 14, who takes on Tomas Berdych on Monday.
“I’ve been practising pretty much like my normal schedule. I’ve been happy the way it’s been going and how it’s been feeling. I’ll be fine to play. I’ve been playing a lot of hours the last week.”
Konta, who faces a rematch against her Brisbane conqueror Ajla Tomljanovic, was also forced out of Sydney after locking up her neck.
She said: “I was warming up and my neck just kind of seized up – I couldn’t turn left and I couldn’t look up so that made it particularly difficult to hit normal strokes and also serve. It was just a bit of a random thing and unfortunate, but I can look up now.”
Boulter, Edmund, Murray, Norrie, Heather Watson, Dan Evans and Harriet Dart all play on Monday, with Konta beginning her campaign on Tuesday.