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Acapulco | Watson ends title drought in Mexico

Britain’s Heather Watson ended her title drought with an impressive win over Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, 6-4 6-7(8) 6-1, in the final of Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC on Saturday.

It was so up and down I had those [match] points in the 2nd set, and I wasn’t able to win that, but I was really pleased with how I stayed in the moment, and won that 3rd set.

“I’m so happy to get my 4th title,” Watson said. “It’s been a few years, so I’m just really, really happy I came through that match.

“It was heartbreaking losing the second set, but I also reminded myself that I also saved a lot of set points before that. It was so close, both of us had our chances.

“I just had to leave that set behind me, even though I had my opportunities, and just remind myself that it’s just a tennis match and it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t win.

“Just play every point and focus on just that one point, that next point.”

Watson, to her credit, bounced right back after the disappointment of missing those chances, crushing a forehand winner down the line to bring up a break point for 2-0, then converting that chance after Fernandez missed a rally backhand into the net.

A backhand passing winner gave Watson a love break for a 5-1 lead, putting herself in control.

Fernandez had one last incredible game up her sleeve, saving 4 more championship points and reaching break point with a drop-shot winner, but Watson saved that, then fired an ace to bring up a 10th match point, which she converted with a forehand winner.

The British No 1 served up 6 aces on the way to victory over the 17-year-old, with the pair battling it out for almost three hours.

“It was so up and down,” admitted Watson. “I had those [match] points in the 2nd set, and I wasn’t able to win that, but I was really pleased with how I stayed in the moment, and won that 3rd set.”

Back in the WTA Tour trophy winners’ circle for the first time since Monterrey in 2016, the 27-year old’s form has dipped in and out of the top 100, but she ended last season by reaching the final of the Tianjin Open and has not looked back.

Her other career singles titles were at Osaka in 2012 and Hobart in 2015, with all 4 of Watson’s titles coming on hard courts.

She began 2020 by making the semi-finals of the Hobart International and Saturday’s victory will return her to the top 50 for the first time in nearly 4 years.

On Saturday, she raced into a commanding 4-0 lead in the opening set with 2 breaks, but Fernandez hit back in a marathon second set.

After trading breaks early on, it went to the breaker and the Canadian saved 5 match points before levelling it at one set each on her 6th set point.

The 17-year-old, however, could not replicate that success in the decider as Watson broke twice and eased to victory, although she did need another 5 match points to do so.

“I’ve played Leylah two times before this, and I knew what to expect,” Watson said. “She’s a great player, and it would be really tough because the 2 matches before that had been really tough.

“The thing I notice about her the most is the head on her shoulders. She’s very, very mature for her age.

“I think it’s her mental toughness that really stands out,” Watson continued. “I think she’s going to have a great career ahead of her and rise up the rankings very quickly if she keeps playing like this.”

Watson, the first player from Great Britain to reach the Acapulco final and win the title, is now projected to re-enter the Top 50 of the WTA singles rankings, up from her current ranking of No 69, edging her closer to her career-high ranking of No 38, which she obtained following her title run at Hobart in January of 2015.

It was also an incredible breakthrough week for the 17-year-old qualifier Fernandez who, with the World No 190 reaching her first final this week, is projected to move up at least 60 spots in the WTA singles rankings.


A delighted Heather Watson (L) shakes hands with Leylah Fernandez

© Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images




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