Thursday, June 23, 2011
Heather Watson receives medical treatment for an elbow injury during her round one match.
Photos by © AELTC/ T.Hindley
WIMBLEDON - Although a bright future almost certainly lies ahead for Heather Watson, the British young gun narrowly lost her opening round match at The Championships. Playing against France's Mathilde Johansson on a packed No.3 Court, Watson battled an elbow injury and put up a brave fight before falling 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Those in attendance had plenty to be impressed about watching Watson, a compact, stylish player in the mould of Agnieszka Radwanska. She displayed great mental fortitude when pressed in her first service game, finally holding to level scores at 1-1 after almost 20 minutes on court.
Games continued on serve in the windy conditions, which the Brit used to her advantage. She threw a lob over the head of the net-bound Frenchwoman, which dropped just inside the baseline and helped her to level at two games apiece.
From there, Watson cruised. Her purposeful returns kept Johansson under pressure and several errors off Johansson's racket gave her the first break of the set. Watson's serve was also a major weapon - she landed two aces and two more powerful service winners to consolidate the break.
Watson lagged in the power department but her excellent court coverage frustrated her higher-ranked and more experienced opponent. She goaded Johansson into error and scored the second break of the match to lead 5-2.
Enjoying resounding applause when she returned to court after the changeover, Watson confidently pocketed the opening set in 42 minutes, her serve and forehand clicking.
The early stages of the second set mirrored the latter stages of the first. Wastson again demonstrated excellent use of the lob, finding the corner of the court and pouncing on the short reply from Johansson, smacking an off-forehand winner to bring up two game points. Two points later, she scrambled to retrieve a powerful Johansson drive, clinching the game after throwing up a sliced lob that Johansson smashed into the net.
The complexion of the match changed in the fifth game. Watson had fed the Frenchwoman a diet of short balls for the entire match, but now Johansson was finding the lines with her heavy groundstrokes and moved ahead 3-2.
Perhaps Watson remembered she was an experienced wildcard, or Johansson was sick of being made to look clumsy by a player seven years her junior and ranked 36 places lower. Whatever the reason, Johansson broke serve in the seventh game with several winners.
Things got worse for the local girl in the eighth game. Watson pulled up gingerly after a serve and required treatment on her right elbow at the ensuing changeover, returning to court with her arm heavily strapped. She played on seemingly unhindered, but was gradually worn down by Johansson's power, surrendering the second set 6-4 as another Johansson winner whistled into the corner.
"The injury didn't help," said Watson after the match."But my opponent played well. She was solid from both sides and was very aggressive. Got me on the defence quite a lot."
Against the tide, Watson broke serve and then held to lead 2-0 in the third set, before losing four consecutive games. As she put her hand to her forehead in frustration and disbelief, it all seemed to be slipping away for the youngster.
However, Watson broke serve in the seventh game and then followed this up with an impressive service hold to love, bringing the crowd to life once more. Could their girl get the job done?
Unfortunately, her inexperience showed. The finish line was in sight for both women yet it was Johansson who seized the moment - with scores locked at 4-4, 30-30, the Frenchwoman rifled a forehand winner down the line and held serve with the next point. She brought up two match points with yet another forehand winner.
Watson saved both, but a third match point proved one too many to handle. When the British girl's forehand found the net after a testing rally Johansson raised her arms in elation, the entertaining contest ending after two hours and 17 minutes.
"I am a fighter. I'm never going to give up," said Watson. "And the match is never over. People have lost after having had match points. It happens all the time, every week. I was fighting for every point. But it was disappointing at the end."