Heather Watson upset 4th-seeded Monica Niculescu in the opening round of the Coupe Banque Nationale, and followed up with a win over Canadian wild card Leylah Fernadez to reach the quarter-finals for the second time in her career in Quebec City.
After a pretty even opening set that lasted 80 minutes, Watson threatened to bagel Niculescu in the second set as she raced into a 5-0 lead, but her opponent put up a fight and won the next three games before the World No 107 served it out.
In what looks to be an upturn in Watson’s fortunes, and with compatriot Naomi Broady losing in the first round in Quebec, she is the last British woman standing.
The British No 2, who lost in the first round at the US Open, secured a 7-5 6-3 win over the Romanian in 2 hours and 19 minutes, and then dispatched the Canadian, 6-4 7-5.
It was a tough first round against the No 4 seed Monica Niculescu before taking care of Canadian wildcard, and it will be another Canadian in front of her when she takes to the court in the form of the much-respected Rebecca Marino.
Marino, a former World No 38, is not just a home favourite but has been much admired for her honesty about taking a break from the tour in 2012 for depression and physical fatigue issues before taking a longer, indefinite break in 2013.
“On court, I was still able to compete. I knew I loved tennis,” recalled Marino. “It’s just that eventually I lost my passion for it.
“It was super hard to make the decision to retire at 22,” she added. “I knew I was young to be leaving the sport, but I also knew that I needed to put the person first—to take care of myself before anything—so ultimately that was why I stopped. It took a lot of talking through.”
Coming back took her going to psychologists and consulting with doctors, settling back into regular life and learning how not to dwell on past hard times.
“I’m about moving on and being positive,” she said.
Both Watson and Marino are bidding to advance to the semi-final for the first time.
Third seed Monica Puig had a comfortable day at the office as the defending Olympic champion beat America’s Madison Brengle in the second round, 7-6 3-0 retired, and will now take on another American Sofia Kenin, the 5th seed, winner over local wild card Francoise Abanda, 6-4 6-4.
Eighth seed Pauline Parmentier defeated American Christina McHale, 6-2 4-6 7-5, and next meets Varvana Lepchenko from the USA, who upset top seed Aryna Sabalenka in the opening round, 6-4 7-6(5).
Watson has been toiling this season, coming through three rounds of qualifying US Open qualifying after winning the title at the ITF $100K event in Vancouver, and now hopes to move forward in Quebec City.