Tianjin | Watson cruises into quarters
Britain’s Heather Watson captured her biggest scalp in more than two years by comprehensively eliminating China’s World No 22 and second seed Wang Qiang in the Tianjin Open.
Wang, 27, was ranked as high as 12th earlier this year, after losing in the US Open quarter-finals to Serena Williams.
Watson, ranked 103 places below the Chinese, won 6-3 6-0 in 78 minutes, recording the 27-year old’s best result since victory over World No 19 Anastasija Sevastova at Wimbledon in 2017.
She produced her best performance to storm into the quarter-finals after a sparse season.
In fact, the Briton had not won a hard court match on Tour in over a year coming into this week, but comfortably overcame Wang and will now face Magda Linette in the last-8, her first WTA quarter-final appearance since reaching the Hobart Open semi-finals in January 2018.
After being made to made to fight hard for her opening service games, the World No 125 found her rhythm and dominated an opponent who was hunting success on her hometown court.
With only two main draw wins in 2019, the early games were essential for Watson, with two hard-fought service holds giving her a base of confidence to build on.
These spanned 28 points, during which she successfully faced down 5 break opportunities for her opponent.
In between, Watson broke Wang’s serve, exerting pressure with immaculate length to grab the early lead.
Although her opponent briefly rallied, converting her only break point of 8 chances, Watson took command of the match.
She sent up a lob that Wang was unable to return, just when it seemed probable matters were going to be squared, regained her accuracy to forge another break.
Watson’s variety proved pivotal, with drop-shots thrown in here and there, while her shot selection was largely immaculate – in the rally that sealed the opening set she hit the lines on multiple occasions before her opponent succumbed to the pressure by netting.
Her form continued into the second set, in which she quickly established a 0-40 lead on the Wang serve, and although the Chinese saved 2 of these break points, Watson took the third.
After that, Watson’s self-belief grew and, as the set progressed, she hit the ball increasingly decisively, with her winner count spiralling.
Conversely, Wang was failing to produce her best level.
A wasteful overhead was compounded by a double fault and an unforced error saw her fall 3-0 behind, at which point she seemed to lose any belief that the match could be salvaged.
Watson took full advantage, completing the bagel set with an assured display of tennis to send her into the last 8, where she will face Linette, the player who eliminated her from Beijing qualifying just a fortnight ago.
In the doubles, Watson & Harriet Dart were knocked out, 4-6 6-4 [10-2], by China’s Zhu Lin & Han Xinyun on Wednesday.
The British pair took the first set but were forced into a tiebreak after losing the second, and struggled to find momentum, handing the Chinese duo victory.
Dart, 23, was knocked out by qualifier Kurumi Nara on Tuesday.