Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson brought Heather Watson’s fine run to an end by beating her in the Tianjin final on Sunday, 6-4 6-4, to claim her second title of the year, enduring rain, a change in venue and an inspired opponent on her way.
I am so happy on court now and I am so enjoying my game again. I am looking forward to seeing what's to come Heather Watson
Peterson and Watson had never met in a main draw in a WTA Tour event, although the Swede had come out on top in a recent Wuhan qualifier, winning, 6-2 6-2.
The Swede had already tasted success in this Asian swing, winning Nanchang in her only prior experience of a final.
The World No 59 was the clear favourite over Watson, ranked 125, but the Briton had a perfect record in such showpiece matches, with a 3-0 winning record in finals, all of which had been International events on hard courts.
She may have only won 2 main draw matches on the WTA Tour prior to this week and while this was her first final since Monterrey in March 2016, Watson found her mojo in Tianjin, defeating Katerina Bondarenko in the first round in an hour 47 minutes before breezing by No 2 seed Wang Qiang in 78 minutes.
She had to survive 4 match points in the quarter-finals against No 8 seed Magda Linette in a match that lasted just over three hours, but dispatched Viktoria Kudermetova in straight sets in the semis.
All of Peterson’s three completed matches this week, however, had gone the distance, beating Venus Williams in three before coming from behind to beat Yafan Wang and Ons Jabeur.
The stage was set but as they finalists stepped onto court, it rained and, after a delay, the trophy match was sent indoors into conditions that could not have been more polar opposite.
Originally scheduled to be on Center Court at 1:30 pm for their clash, Peterson and Watson waited through a more-than 5 hour rain delay, and when the persistent rain returned during the warmup, the final was moved to an indoor facility.
On the bare, banner-less and soulless hard court, flanked by a single row of chairs on which sat a handful of spectators, the two did battle and it was a close one.
Watson broke serve in the second game but was immediately pegged back by the World No 59, leaving the match effectively on serve after 3 games lasting almost 22 minutes.
Peterson had to come back from a break down in each set, turning around a 0-2 deficit both times on her way to a straight sets victory in an hour and 37 minutes.
Some powerful hitting helped Peterson take the opener, breaking Watson in game 9 before closing it out 6-4 in just under an hour with a fine forehand winner.
Watson responded and began the second in the same fashion as the first, with a break in game 2, but once again she immediately squandered the lead, this time after a double fault to set up break point.
She was broken again in her next service game to trail 3-2, which became 5-3 to leave Watson serving to stay in the match.
She did so, forcing Peterson to serve it out, but a comfortable hold to 15 completed a straight-sets win.
The Swede had kept the pressure on with her 17 winners, creating 10 break opportunities and capitalising on 4.
Watson could not keep her unforced errors in check, producing 38 to Peterson’s 26 and, as a result, only broke twice from 4 chances.
The victory also means that Peterson, currently ranked No 59 in the world, will jump inside the WTA’s Top 40, reaching a new career high ranking.
Watson’s form this week means the 27-year-old is guaranteed to climb back inside the world’s top 100 when the new rankings are released.
It was the first time the Briton had lost WTA final, winning her previous three at Osaka in 2012, Hobart in 2015 and Monterrey in 2016.
After the match, Watson said: “I am so happy on court now and I am so enjoying my game again. I am looking forward to seeing what’s to come.”