Katie O’Brien: From British No. 1 to Retirement at 25

21 July 2023

Katie O’Brien was once billed as the next best British women’s tennis superstar when she broke onto the scene in 2004. Six years later, she was in the top 100. However, she decided to retire early.

Superb 2023 Wimbledon Championship

The recent 2023 Wimbledon Championships was a thriller. There was a surprise winner in the women’s section, while the men’s final was a real spectacle. We are already looking ahead to next year’s tournament, and odds are already available. Looking at the 2024 Women’s Wimbledon betting markets, Aryna Sabalenka is priced at 9/2, while Ons Jabeur, the 2023 runner-up, is available at 10/1.

Katie Boulter was Britain’s top performer at Wimbledon this year, reaching the third round. She beat Daria Saville and Viktoriya Tomova in the early rounds, but the current British No. 1 was beaten in straight sets in round three.

O’Brien picked up four ITF titles in her career and won almost 300 career games as a professional. The Yorkshire-born ace also reached the second round of Wimbledon in 2007 and the second round of the Australian Open three years later.

The 2007 Wimbledon Championships was the most memorable tournament showing of her career. As a wildcard, she beat German player Sandra Klosel in the first round, winning 6-3, 7-5. Unfortunately, she came up short against Michaella Krajicek in the next round, losing in straight sets. Krajicek lost to eventual runner-up Marion Bartoli in the quarter-finals.

Her final ITF tournament victory came in 2009. Having picked up wins in Hull, Nottingham and Sutton, O’Brien prevailed in the 2009 ITF Jersey tournament, beating French player Clair Feuerstein in the final.

During her short seven-year playing career, O’Brien also reached the first round of the French Open in 2009 and 2010. Shortly before the French Open in 2010, O’Brien moved up to No. 84 in the rankings, which was her highest-ever position.

O’Brien Retires in 2011

O’Brien received a wildcard into the Wimbledon Championships in 2011, facing Kimiko Date-Krumm in the first round. However, she crashed to a quick defeat at SW19 and became the first player from the main draw to exit the competition. That proved to be O’Brien’s final Grand Slam match, as she announced her retirement in 2011.

O’Brien never quite lived up to the billing, though she did have some memorable matches and picked up four career titles. She was not enjoying life on tour so decided to call time on her career at a very young age for a professional athlete.

However, after working a desk job, O’Brien found her way back into tennis in 2017, taking up a coaching role with the Lawn Tennis Association. She was coaching the next generation and has since been promoted to the women’s national coach of the LTA.

O’Brien, who is originally from Beverley, is now relishing in her new role as a coach, and her experience as a professional player for seven years will no doubt stand her in good stead.

Many players go on to become tennis coaches, but O’Brien’s story is unique as she spent so long away from the game before slotting back in with aplomb. Still, did the former British No. 1 pack away her racket too soon?

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