Norfolk’s Olivia Nicholls is plying her trade among the world’s elite after a standout 2022 season that included a maiden WTA Tour title, a win at Wimbledon, and a career-high ranking of 72.

Alongside doubles partner Alicia Barnett, the 27-year-old from Acle is enjoying the access to main tour events that her new ranking allows, with a third Grand Slam outing at the Australian Open on the horizon in January, following her Wimbledon and US Open bows this summer.

Nicholls had a Wimbledon week to remember, as she and Barnett took advantage of their wildcard entry to claim a first-round victory over the experienced Renata Voracova and Kaia Kanepi.

While their progress was halted by a dramatic final-set tie-break in round two, it was a valuable experience for Nicholls on the grass of the All England Club that included a mixed doubles outing with the returning Kyle Edmund in front of a capacity Court 3 crowd of around 2,000.

“It was an amazing experience to play Wimbledon for the first time," she said. "We had incredible support from friends and family which made winning our first round very special.”

Great Yarmouth Mercury: A winning team - Olivia Nicholls, right, with Alicia BarnetA winning team - Olivia Nicholls, right, with Alicia Barnet (Image: WTA)

August’s US Open debut came in hectic fashion as a late withdrawal provided a space in the draw for the British pair, leaving limited preparation time before stepping onto Court 8 where they would fall to 13th seeds Alexa Guarachi and Andreja Klepac in a spirited 6-4, 7-5 defeat.

“We knew it was a bit of a gamble going to the US Open as alternates, as our chances of getting in were quite slim. However, a few singles players lost, and others picked up some niggles which meant we moved into the draw.

“Our preparations weren’t ideal as we only found out on the morning that we played that we were in the draw. We had left our match kit in Granby after a bit of a laundry disaster but fortunately Harriet Dart (British number 2 singles) came to the rescue about an hour before we went on!’”

Sandwiched between those Grand Slam appearances however was the most significant result of the year for Nicholls and Barnett, as they claimed the WTA 250 title in Granby, Canada.

A ruthless championship tie-break saw them overcome fellow Brit Dart and Rosalie Van Der Hoek of the Netherlands in the final, to lift their first trophy at tour level.

“We were both thrilled to win our first tour title in Granby. We carried on our good form and played some really high level matches that week. It’s only our first full year on the WTA tour so to win a 250 title so soon shows how far we have come and how well we are playing.”

While the summer period rightly grabbed the headlines, it was perhaps a result back in March that provided the platform for Nicholls' and Barnett’s elevated 2022 tournament schedule, after reaching the final of a WTA 250 event in Lyon - their first foray into competition at the main tour level.

That run to the final set the tone for their ascent in the rankings and brought them firmly into the conversation for a wildcard into Wimbledon.

As her stellar season draws to a close, she will aim to finish strongly at WTA 250 events in Estonia, Tunisia, and Romania, before a break in competition and an off-season training block.

Nicholls has even loftier ambitions for the coming season:

“I think to finish next year in the top 40 is the aim. A ranking of this kind guarantees entry into the masters 1000s as well as the slams, and that is where we want to be. To win a 500 event would be something we would like to achieve next year as well.”

There is no doubt that Nicholls deserves her recent success and experiences after several years earning her stripes on the ITF Challenger Tour, following a successful time at Loughborough University where she won the national student singles and doubles titles.

With shoulder surgery threatening to end her career and the Covid-19 pandemic providing a further delay to her return, the path to the WTA Tour has not been a straight line, but Nicholls has shown remarkable resilience and patience and is now beginning to reap the rewards.

“It’s been an exciting year, with lots of firsts, and some big climbs up the rankings. I'm absolutely loving every aspect of the journey and hope to continue to progress in a similar fashion next year.”