Quebec | Watson falls in semi-finals
Heather Watson’s bid to reach the final in Quebec City was stopped in its tracks after a marathon effort against Pauline Parmentier, the No 8 seed from France on Saturday.
The British No 3 battled for 2 hours and 35 minutes but came up short at the last to suffer a 5-7 6-3 7-6(5) in the Coupe Banque Nationale.
Watson had twice broken her opponent, ranked 38 places higher, to take the advantage but was broken three times in the second as Parmentier pulled back level.
Looked to be the aggressor for large parts of the decider, Watson did not face a single break point against her, but was unable to seize the initiative in the tiebreak.
The 32-year-old Parmentier served 10 aces over the course of the victory, and saved 9 of the 12 break points she faced over the course of the marathon encounter.
Despite being the first of the two players to break in the match, Parmentier ultimately could not convert any of her 3 set points in the opener, all of which came on Watson’s serve in the ninth game.
The Frenchwoman fell behind 0-40 in her ensuing service game, and though she managed to pull to deuce, she never held another set point over the course of the next three games, as Watson won the last 4 games of the first set, with all stretching past deuce at least twice.
The second set also saw Parmentier start quickly, as she won the first 4 games but the No 8 seed suffered no such lapse as she did in the first set after losing serve in the sixth game.
The World No 69 broke for a 3rd time in the set to send a match to a decider, but neither player managed to earn a break of serve over the last 12 games of the match.
It was Watson who was left to rue missed chances in the decider, as Parmentier saved key break points at 4-4 and 5-5 in the final set before steeling her nerve to win in a tense tiebreak.
Watson reached her highest career ranking of 38 after winning the Hobart International in January 2015 but has been in only one WTA final since.
The 26-year-old World No 107, seeking her fourth WTA title, took the first set against after battling back from a break down but she was soon 3-0 down in the second as Parmentier, ranked 69, levelled.
Watson had beaten 32-year-old Parmentier in their only previous meeting, a 7-5 6-3 success at the 2012 Osaka quarter-finals en route to her maiden career title.
The Brit, bidding to reach her first WTA final since Monterrey 2016, was playing in her first elite level semi-final since Hobart in January.
She had not dropped a set in the Quebec event but it was Istanbul champion Parmentier who reached a second final in one year for the first time.
Watson’s run in a main draw of a WTA event since the start of the season will instil more confidence in the Guernsey resident as she chases down Katie Boulter to regain her No 2 spot in Great Britain.
In Sunday’s final, the Frenchwoman will play American Jessica Pegula, who continued her superb week with a 4-6 6-2 6-4 success against compatriot Sofia Kenin.
In Japan, 17-year-old qualifier Amanda Anisimova overcame No 1seed Zhang Shuai of China to reach the final of the Hiroshima Open.
Anisimova’s 7-6(4) 7-5 win made her the youngest player to reach a WTA Tour final since a then 16-year-old Donna Vekic in Birmingham in 2013, but she met her match in the form of Hsieh Su-wei in the final, who emphatically sealed her first career title since 2012 and continued her most consistent season so far.
The No 2 seed dominated Anisimova 6-2 6-2 to win the 10th edition of the Hana-Cupid Japan Women’s Open and will now return to the Top 30 for the first time since February 2013, while the young American will climb into the Top 100 for the first time.
Her unorthodox game didn’t give Anisimova enough pace to show her big-hitting quality.
The Taiwanese controlled the game using variety and crafted drop-shots, forcing the match to be played on her terms, while Anisimova, easily brought out of her comfort zone, had no answers to offer to turn defence into offence.
The pattern continued in the second set as Hsieh broke twice more to create an unassailable 4-1 lead against the American, who finished to over-hit more frequently and tally 23 unforced errors to 11 winners.
Hsieh claimed her fifth break to 5-2 and served the match out to 15, and placed the final smash to convert her second match point.