Britain’s Heather Watson came through two rounds of qualifying at the Hobart International and, on Monday in the main draw, came from behind to beat Jil Teichmann for the first time, 1-6 6-4 6-4.
My results haven't been amazing, but what I will say is that I'm very happy on and off the court and tennis isn't the be-all, end-all and I'm okay with that. Heather Watson
Watson likes playing in Hobart and is a former champion here, having lifted the trophy in 2015, so will be hoping to jump-start her season well.
One of three former champions in the main draw, the others being Elise Mertens (2017-18) and Alizé Cornet; (2016), Watson was the only one in action on Monday having come through two rounds of qualifying over the weekend, defeating Hayley Carter from the USA, 6-0 6-2, and Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic, 6-4 6-3, to secure her main draw spot.
Watson’s ranking has dropped to No 101 but she has been as high as No 38, in 2015, when she contracted glandular fever.
She reigned as British No 1 and won the mixed-doubles title at the 2016 Wimbledon Championships with Henri Kontinen.
“My results haven’t been amazing [since then], but what I will say is that I’m very happy on and off the court and tennis isn’t the be-all, end-all and I’m okay with that,” Watson said in a recent interview.
Although she has won Hobart in the past and reached the quarter-final and the semi-final, she went out in the first round last year, and was narrowly beaten in the second round of qualifying at the season opener in Brisbane.
Facing Teichmann, the World No 67, who hails from Switzerland, took the opening set with relative ease and took an early break in the second but Watson rallied from the 6-0 3-0 deficit to win a tight match in three sets, displaying her fighting qualities.
A stalwart of British Fed Cup campaigns, Watson finished a tough 2019 with a run to the Tianjin final, while Teichmann had cut her teeth more on clay with titles last year in Prague and Palermo to her name.
Watson next faces France’s Fiona Ferro, whom she beat in Brisbane and advanced after the No 7 seed Rebecca Peterson from Sweden retired due to a lower back injury at 4-4 in the opening set.
Elsewhere 5th-seeded Veronika Kudermetova from Russia eased through to the second round with the loss of only 4 games against wild card Samantha Stosur.
Kudermetova produced a dominant performance to defeat the Australian, 6-2, 6-2 in 64 minutes.
The Russian had fallen at the final hurdle in Brisbane qualifying last week but was quickly into the groove in her first main draw of the season, boasting too much artillery for home favourite Stosur.
The pair had met previously only in the Fed Cup of 2014, where the 16-year-old Kudermetova was rapidly overwhelmed by the former WTA World No 4 but in Tasmania the roles were comprehensively reversed.
In blustery conditions, Kudermetova took the opening set in just 27 minutes, taking two breaks of serve, then weathered a response from her opponent in the second to move comfortably through.
It was the controlled power of the 22-year-old that was the defining aspect of the opening set as she was able to dominate the centre of the court and move her opponent from side to side.
Stosur, meanwhile, fought with her accuracy, with a high unforced error count contributing significantly as she fell behind.
No 6 seed Magda Linette of Poland needed two tiebreaks to defeat two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, 7-6(2) 7-6(9).
Both players entered the match in search of their first win of 2020, with Linette having lost to Zhang Shuai in the first round of last week’s Shenzhen Open, and Kuznetsova having been forced to withdraw from the ASB Classic with a viral illness.
In the pair’s first meeting, it was the Polish No 1 who secured victory in 2 hours and 6 minutes behind a pair of contrasting tiebreaks, after having trailed in both sets.
“It was very difficult today. The wind was quite tricky,” Linette said in her on-court interview. “She’s very experienced and she knows how to play. I had to bring my best today.”
Later, she added: “You could hear that Svetlana was still a little bit sick, but it was still super difficult to perform our best. I just had to find a way, and I’m glad that I won.”
The World No 43 was a break down in both sets, rallying from a 4-2 deficit in the first and a 4-1 deficit in the second, but she ultimately needed a second chance to see off the Russian.
Kuznetsova saved 3 set points on serve in the 10th game of the opener, but could not battle back from a 5-1 deficit in the ensuing tiebreak, and found herself close to extending the match to a decider after breaking Linette when she served for the match in the second set.
After saving two match points from 6-4 down, the Russian had a trio of set points herself in the second set tiebreak, but proved unable to convert any of the three at 7-6, 8-7 or 9-8, the last of which came behind her serve.
“Honestly, I think I was maybe a little bit more powerful today. I was trying to be more aggressive,” Linette said.
“I made mistakes…but eventually, it paid off. I’m glad, because it was really, really difficult mentally to sacrifice a couple of points. It was super close, so I’m glad that it was worth it.
“The first one, I was playing really well in the first tiebreak. The second one, I started well, but it didn’t follow. I was brave, and I was hitting the ball pretty fast, especially on her set points.
“I had a tactic to move her as much as I could, because she defends so well, and she likes to be in this position. I really had to work and make sure that I was going forward on the right balls. You could really see her experience because she was fighting until the end.”
After securing her first career victory against a Grand Slam champion, the 27-year-old Linette will next face American Lauren Davis, who needed over 2-and-a-half hours to overcome wildcard Astra Sharma, 6-3 3-6 7-6(6), after saving match point herself in the deciding tiebreak.
Meanwhile, Kateryna Kozlova, a qualifier from the Ukraine, surrendered just 3 games to beat Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, 6-2 6-1.