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Watson smiles her way to Centre Court win

Heather Watson pumps her fist after winning a point.
by Alexandra Willis
Monday 25 June 2012

Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Heather Watson, a player so bubbly she could almost burst, will know that smiles are second-nature to the Guernsey girl.

She is a very happy go-lucky sort, one you could never really imagine being in a bad mood, or throwing her rackets out of the pram, or getting at all close to grumpy.

But that demeanour belies the steel-works worth of iron ore running through Little Miss Watson. The 20-year-old British No.3 became the first British woman to win a match on Centre Court since Jo Durie in 1985 on Monday at Wimbledon, and in some style, too, defeating Iveta Benesova 6-2, 6-1 .

Facing the often-tricksy Czech left-hander, someone whom fellow Brit Katie O’Brien fell foul against on these very courts a few years ago, there were concerns that Watson might be foxed by stage or foe or both.

Wimbledon has, after all, not been the happiest of places for Heather, the youngster out-played two years ago, and injured a year ago. But Watson came into Wimbledon with a decent run in Edgbaston and Eastbourne behind her, having fully established herself as a bright young thing among the WTA’s many up and comers. And not just because of her beam.

Like her fellow Brit, Andy Murray, Watson admitted she left no video un-watched in her efforts to best prepare herself for Benesova’s quirks, spending the hours waiting for her match to be scheduled on YouTube instead of fretting in a corridor somewhere.

“I actually went back to my host family who live like just at the back of Aorangi, which is perfect.  Having a little nap in the day,” Watson laughed.

 “Today I was watching videos of my opponent playing, so I was going in confident.  I'd been practicing well.  I'd mentally prepared myself, as well.”

Charging into a 4-1 lead and handing over just the one more game before taking the first set, Watson was even better in the second, producing just 10 unforced errors to 24 winners in total.

“I was very pleased with how I played today,” Watson said. “I just had so much fun out there. I was pleased that we got put on Centre.  I've never played on Centre before.”

It suited her.

“The crowd was awesome,” Watson said. “I kept getting the tingles.  Especially after I won I kind of got a bit lost and couldn't find my way off the court.

“You have to be out there to feel it.  It's just an unbelievable feeling.  I'm getting to the stage now, and this is why I've been playing tennis almost my whole life, for moments like those.  It's just my dream, and I love to be in that moment and experiencing all that.”

Here’s hoping she experiences that feeling many more times. But before she crosses that patch of grass again, she’ll have to take down American Jamie-Lee Hampton in the second round on Wednesday.

One player who could be joining Watson in the second round is Johanna Konta, the newly-naturalised Brit who had to go home at 7-7 in the third set of her barnstormer against up and coming American Christina McHale, the 28th seed.

Konta has been highly-thought of for a while, but has struggled with injuries in her quest to climb up the rankings. She’ll be pleased by her performance on her Wimbledon main draw debut though, and will hope to come back and finish the job on Tuesday.

For a while, it looked like Britain might be treated to two winners on the opening day of The Championships, as Oliver Golding proved what great potential the Twickenham boy has with a four-set display against Igor Andreev. Golding belted through the first set for the loss of one game, only for Andreev’s experience to tell eventually, the Russian winning 1-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-5 on No.2 Court.

It will be written up, rightly, as a promising performance from the junior US Open champion, but all he could think about was that he should have won.

“Devastation,” Golding said, when asked how he was feeling. “I left everything out on the court.  I couldn't have given anything more than what I did.  It just wasn't to be today.  I had my chances.  I was, you know, a little bit unlucky in the third‑set tiebreak.

“Probably now it's just tough to think it, but it was an amazing experience to play on a pretty big court against a player like that, very good player,” Golding said. “I held my own out there.  But I want to be at that level every week.”

Golding’s fellow British male, Josh Goodall, also took a set off his opponent, fellow wild card Grigor Zemlja, before succumbing 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.

“I feel like I'm getting chances to win matches, and I'm just not taking them,” Goodall said reflectively. But it is some performance from a player who a year ago was contemplating retirement.

“At this time last year I pretty much gave up singles,” Goodall said.  “I was going to go down the doubles route.Then I went two months really hard in the gym, and I was still playing singles in more of a relaxed way and I won a lot of tournaments.  Then that made me think, Hang on.  I started to believe in myself again.  I ended up winning like eight futures and made ten finals in the last ten months.  That's got me to my ranking.”

While Jamie Murray, reunited with former doubles partner Eric Butorac, will come back tomorrow leading  Andre Begemann and  Igor Zelenay 7-6, 7-6, 2-2, Naomi Broady suffered a similarly tight loss, 4-6, 6-7, to Lourdes Dominguez Lino. Perhaps next year, like Heather, it will be her day for a win at Wimbledon. 

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