Heather Watson moved into the quarter-finals of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC on Wednesday, overcoming Kateryna Bondarenko, 7-6(2) 6-2; but Zhu Lin, the other seed to advance, got past Katie Boulter 7-6(2) 7-5, while teenager Leylah Fernandez continued her run, as did local favourite Renata Zarazua.
I did really well to save those set points in the first set, in that really tight game, and I played a really good tiebreak. Once I got through that, I felt like I had momentum and I could release more in my strokes. I was really pleased with that second set, especially because it was such a physical match in these conditions. It was a good test of my fitness and my mental toughness today Heather Watson
Watson, seeded 7, saved 2 set points in the first set after letting a 3-1 lead slip and losing 4 straight games to find herself staring at the prospect of a one-set deficit for the 2nd match running in Acapulco.
“I felt like this match was a lot more physical [than the first round],” Watson said. “We had a lot of longer points, and I think by the end, we were both pretty worn out physically.
“At 3-1 in the first set, I felt like I was playing really good, feeling the ball well.
“At 15-0, I hit a backhand return, and I landed funny and felt my knee a bit, and I lost the next 4 games.
“I was even thinking, ‘I don’t know am I going to finish this match.’
“As the match went on, I started to get a better feeling in my knee, more trust in it, and it was a battle by that stage.”
In the pair’s 5th meeting, a competitive first set that lasted over an hour allowed the British No 2 to ultimately seal a second round victory in an hour and 45 minutes.
“I did really well to save those set points in the first set ,in that really tight game, and I played a really good tiebreak,” she added.
“Once I got through that, I felt like I had momentum and I could release more in my strokes.
“I was really pleased with that second set, especially because it was such a physical match in these conditions.
“It was a good test of my fitness and my mental toughness today.”
Watson was quick out of the gates in the 2nd set, as she won the first 3 games at a canter and never was under threat from then on.
She dropped just 4 points across four service games in the set overall and, despite failing to convert a break point to lead 4-0, she ultimately scored a second break to win the match.
“I think it was momentum, but I went for my shots more in the first game,” Watson said of the second set. “I hit an ace and a good backhand down the line, and that gives you confidence.
“She maybe felt like she had to go for more, and started missing a few, so it’s all a domino effect.”
Up next, Watson faces American Christina McHale for a spot in her second semi-final of the season on the line.
“Christina is a good friend of mine,” Watson said. “We’re the same age, we came through juniors together, and we’ve been on the same journey since we were very young. Whoever I play, it’s going to be a tough match.”
Meanwhile, Boulter fell to a straight sets defeat at the hands of 6th seed Zhu.
After losing a disappointing first-set tiebreak, the 23-year-old responded well as she cemented an early break of serve in the second to establish a 3-1 lead, but Zhu fought back to grab her 2nd break point opportunity and drew level at 4-4 before seeing out the match with another break.
Joining the list of exiting seeds was Nao Hibino from Japan, who was crushed by Canadian 17-year-old Fernandez, 6-3 6-0, in just over an hour.
Competing in her 5th career WTA main draw this week, Fernandez was dominant across 3 matches coming into Wednesday’s clash against the No 8 seed.
“It feels great. I’m happy with my performance today and I’m happy that I got the win, and hopefully, it keeps going,” Fernandez said after the match.
“The main strategy was to play my game, to keep going, being aggressive and take command of the point. I was happy that I was able to get the win today against a great player like her.”
Mexican wildcard Renata Zarazua’s run also continued on Wednesday evening in dramatic fashion.
The 22-year-old from Mexico City rallied from a set down, and saved 7 break points which would have seen her trail, 6-4, 5-2, to beat American teenager Katie Volynets, 4-6 7-5 6-0.
She will next face Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek, who came through a match against her teenaged compatriot Kaja Juvan, the first-round conquerer of Venus Williams, 6-2 6-2.
Anastasia Potapova and Wang Xiyu also moved into the last eight.