Wimbledon Day 5 | Watson loses battle with former world No1
Heather Watson suffered heartbreak against a leading player for the second time in three Wimbledons as mum proved to be the word in her third-round encounter against Victoria Azarenka at The Championships.
Yeah, I did fall at the final hurdle, but I felt confident and fought as hard as I could for every single point Heather Watson
The British No.2 lost a Centre Court showdown with two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka, on her Grand Slam comeback since the birth of her first son Leo, 3-6 6-1 6-4.
Four British players had reached the third round of the first time in 20 years, with Andy Murray, Jo Konta and Alijaz Bedene making up the quartet.
But Watson was unable to play a leading role as the first one of them to hit the courts on the fifth day of The Championships
The 25-year-old was pipped in a titanic battle with eventual champion Serena Williams in 2015.
And it looked as though she was ready to topple a marquee performer when she took on Belarusian Azarenka.
Watson made a flying start against the two-time Australian Open champion.
She broke her opponent and opened up a 4-1 advantage as the sun beat down.
Watson wobbled as her opponent broke her and went on to reduce the deficit to 4-3.
But the Channel Islander, watched by her mum and dad, forced another break before serving out.
Her serve looked a potent weapon and her movement smooth, while she was the equal of Azarenka on groundstroke power.
Her run to the last-32 following an impressive showing at Eastbourne where she reached the semi-final has given her confidence. That, and the new coaching team of Colin Beecher and Morgan Phillips.
All the trials and tribulations of a difficult year seem behind her. And with a set advantage Watson looked like the player who scared the life out of Serena Williams in 2015. But the wheels came off the world No.102’s wagon as Azarenka made it a set-all.
Watson showed chutzpah in the decider, breaking back immediately after having her own broken at 3-3. But Azarenka’s greater experience told when she thumped a forehand to break Watson once more before serving out.
Watson said after her loss: “It didn’t matter who I was playing against today. I’ve gotten to the third round quite a few times now in different slams and I just really wanted to make that push for second week for my singles. Like I said, I felt great on court. I’m enjoying it, playing really well. I thought — well, I gave myself a chance today, and I was sad that I couldn’t take it.
“I’d had the experience (playing a top player at Wimbledon in Williams). It definitely helped. I backed myself more today, as I’d been in the situation before, I’ve lacked a little belief maybe at the final hurdle. But today I felt different. Yeah, I did fall at the final hurdle, but I felt confident and fought as hard as I could for every single point.”
There were suggestions by Kim Clijsterss, the BBC commentator and former Grand Slam champion, that Azarenka was being coached.
She said: “It’s the first I’ve heard of it. I think at one point I saw the referee talking with her, but I didn’t know what about. Was it an issue for me? No, because I had no idea it was going on.
“In all the other tournaments during the year, we’re allowed coaching on court, so it’s not that big of a deal for me personally. I actually would prefer that we didn’t have the coaching on court rule. I think it’s better if we figure it out ourselves, plus the men don’t have it. I don’t know why we should.”
Finally it was Azarenka’s grunting. “Did I find it particularly strong? Was it off-putting? Not for me. She’s always grunted like that. It’s no different. I didn’t notice the crowd making any reactions or anything. But it’s kind of a normal thing, so it didn’t bother me at all.”