Defending champion Katie Boulter insisted keeping a cool head was the key to victory over compatriot Harriet Dart in the first round of the LTA’s Rothesay Open in Nottingham.

Boulter, who won her first WTA title at the same venue a year ago, fought back from a set down to defeat Dart 6-7(5) 6-4 7-5.

A hard-fought encounter between the top two British women in the rankings saw Dart dispute a number of calls with the umpire, but Boulter revealed she focussed on blocking out any distractions en route to a comeback victory that took over three hours.

“It is difficult. I know there is a lot going on. I am just trying to focus on myself and not get too involved in the situation,” said Boulter.

“There are some tough calls but they go both ways. I am very cautious of that, half of tennis is keeping your cool and staying patient.

“I am very proud of the way I handled today, I stayed calm the whole time. That’s really what won me the match, just staying there and staying calm.

“It is never easy being in this position. We come together in the Billie Jean King Cup a lot of times and we are friends.

“To go out there and put both of our hearts on the line in front of each other, it is tough.

“I felt like she played really well and came out firing. I did so well to stay strong and to fight and get my way through it. that’s what half of these matches are. I have got room to improve each day and I am really happy with my first grass court win.”

Victory means Woodhouse Eaves native Boulter’s defence of her title remains alive, with the 27-year-old set to face either Viktorija Golubic or Rebecca Marino in the second round.

And Boulter admitted it was a strange feeling upon returning to the site of one of the best moment of her career to date.

She added: “Coming into this tournament as defending champ is mixed emotions, as I have got such great memories but there is also a bit of pressure.

“It’s a totally different ball game, it’s the first time I have come to a tournament being defending champion and I felt like today’s match was really tough. It was a really good level.

“I am going into this week with a great ranking by my name, I am proud of that journey and this is where it kickstarted. I love coming back here for the special feeling that it gives me and even walking out onto that court today, it has been a while since I felt that. I loved every minute out there.”

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