Wimbledon | Wonderful Watson and joyful Jabeur make round 4

Britain’s Heather Watson made it into the Last 16 at The Championships for the first time in the 12 years she has been coming to play at Wimbledon, with 7-6(6) 6-2 win over Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan on Court No 1, while 3rd-seeded Ons Jabeur cruised past French hopeful Diane Parry.

“Firstly, it would not be me if there was not a bit of drama at the end,” Watson said on court. “Wow! What an atmosphere! I mean, you guys are what got me over the line at the end.”

At the age of 30, Watson used all her experience, holding her nerve when it most mattered in the first set, and then playing with panache throughout the second.

The former World No 38, now ranked No 121, had come the closest to the Last 16 in 2015, when she famously led the then-World No 1 Serena Williams on Centre Court before falling 6-2 4-6 7-5.

“I’ve been in the third round quite a few times here at Wimbledon and Australian Open,” Watson said. “I was just sort of waiting for it to happen. I waited long enough … that has been a goal of mine for, like, 10 years.”

After wrestling momentum away from Juvan in the opening set, Watson largely cruised until she approached the finish line.

The Slovenian was the first to break serve in the opener at 3-3, but Watson broke back immediately.

Later, Juvan served to stay in the set, twice, holding to love each time, and she forced a tiebreak in which Watson opened up leads of 5-2 and 6-3 but, ultimately, the Brit needed 4 set points to win the set after the Slovenian saved 3 of them with brave play, but double-faulted on the 4th.

After winning the first 5 games of the second, Watson needed every second of the 1 hour, 43 minutes on court to get herself through, as the match’s last 3 games all extended into deuce, and she saved 3 break points in the last game before finally closing out the match with a superb forehand drop-shot volley.

“It means everything,” she said, before breaking into a smile of pure joy.

In the stands, her mother hugged other members of her players’ box, overwhelmed with a break-through that has been a long time coming, while fans fans waved Union flags as Watson returned to the court and knelt on it in delight before looking purposefully towards her friends and family.

“Those last three games were so close,” Watson said. “There wasn’t much in it.

“t kept going back and forth, deuce/ad. She was coming up with some great shots so I had to give her credit for that.

“I didn’t really panic because I was thinking clearly and well aware that she had raised her level.

“I was surprisingly calm actually. … I really believed that I was going to do it, even if it was a bit of fighting at the end.”

Watson joins compatriot Katie Boulter in Round 4 after the British No 3 dispatched 2021 finalist and 6th seed Karolina Pliskova on Thursday.

It is the first time 2 British women have made it this far in nearly 40 years, after Jo Durie and Ann Hobbs reached the Last 16 together in 1984, with Durie going on to the quarter-finals.

Jule Niemeier got past Lesia Tsurenko to advance for a 4th-round meeting with Heather Watson

© Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Watson will face unseeded German Jule Niemeier, a 22-year-old ranked No 97, for a place in the Last 8 after the German defeated Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine earlier on Friday, 6-4 3-6 6-3, out on Court 18.

Niemeier, ranked 97, battled into the second week of a major for the first time by defeating Tsurenko after a 2 hours 4 minute battle in which she struck 27 winners to the Ukrainian’s 20.

The result backed up the German’s upset of No 2 seed Anett Kontaveit from Estonia in the previous round but, remarkably, there were 18 breaks of serve in the match, which could have gone either way.

Later, Tsurenko, the last of 4 Ukrainians to fall in the singles draw, admitted that thoughts of her homeland had troubled her throughout the match.

The 33-year-old, though, can head back to her temporary refuge in Italy proud of her two Wimbledon wins, which have netted her £120,000 in prize money, 10 per cent of which will go towards helping those in her war-torn country.

“There is a war at home and I think it just makes me too nervous sometimes,” said Tsurenko, the World No 101, who was wearing a blue and yellow ribbon. “It definitely affects me. I was just not able to separate that today.

“I made hundreds of mistakes. I’m still shaking and I felt like this for the whole match.

“A few days like that have happened to me in the last few months. I don’t relax. I don’t see a way to do it now.”

Tsurenko was grateful that Wimbledon enforced a ban on players from Russia and Belarus, but her anger was evident when a reporter asked about Natela Dzalamidze, who switched her allegiance from Russia to Georgia so she could take part in the doubles.

“That’s her decision but, as a Ukrainian, I don’t like the Russian Federation, I don’t like that country,” she said, adding: “Russian people are happy when Ukrainians are dying. They are happy with what the army is doing in Ukraine. I think they are idiots.”

Ons Jabeur cruised into the 4th-round with a straight sets win over Diane Parry

© Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

Elsewhere, after reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year for the first time, Ons Jabeur has cruised back into the second week with a wide smile on her face.

The 3rd-seeded Tunisian, the champion in Berlin 2 weeks ago, upped her grass-court winning streak in singles to 8, with a 6-2 6-3 win over French teenager Diane Parry.

Jabeur has dropped just 13 games in 6 sets at The Championships so far and against 19-year-old Parry on Centre Court, she won both the first 5 games and the match’s last 14 points.

“Hopefully I will be even better for the next matches,” she said. “I am playing the tennis that I love to see.

“Obviously, there’s a few things to improve, and I want to be challenged for the next round, for sure, and see how I handle that pressure.

“For me, sometimes I start playing not so good. I feel like at the end of the tournament I start playing better and better. When I get more matches and I get used to the courts, to the environment here, I think I start to play better.”

Jabeur expertly handled the teenager’s now-unique one-handed backhand and slice, only one of just two players in the Top 100 to have one.

“It honestly easy to go down, like, every time when she slices,” Jabeur said. “But I love playing here. I want to keep it as short as I can. For now I’m just enjoying really playing on grass.

“Those few rounds is always tricky. I want to play my best tennis.

“Obviously if you’re too comfortable, it’s not that good as well. I’m trying to keep focused. … I’m always ready. I’m just trying to play my game and keep it as simple as possible, for sure.”

Jabeur next faces No 24 seed Elise Mertens, who ousted former champion and No 15 seed Angelique Kerber for her first win over a Top 20 player in more than a year.

In their only previous meeting, Mertens beat Jabeur in the 3rd round of last year’s US Open.

Heather Watson prevailed over comebacks from Kaja Juvan to advance to round 4 at Wimbledon, her best showing at a Grand Slam

© Justin Setterfield/Getty Images



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