In years to come when people flick back through the record books, their eyes may fall on a third round result from today and they may sigh: Miss A. Radwanska beat Miss H. Watson 6-0, 6-2. Oh blimey, another sploshing for a Brit on Centre Court. 'Twas ever thus.
But the score line barely tells a fraction of the story. Yes, our brave, battling Brit was comprehensively outplayed by the world No.3 and, yes, she did not stand a chance as Radwanska kept everything neat and tidy, but Watson still deserved her moment in the spotlight. She had reached the third round for the first time in her life and even if her 57-minute pasting was awfully one-sided, there were glimmers of what is to come from the likeable and refreshingly normal young lass from Guernsey.
She certainly impressed Tracy Austin who, as a two-time US Open champion, a former world No.1 and a two-time semi-finalist in SW19, knows her onions when it comes to assessing talent. So, just how far can our Heather go, then, Tracy?
“Top 20,” Tracy said without hesitation. “She’s got good fighting spirit. She needs to improve her second serve, add a little bit more to her game, add a little spin to her shots. She was making a lot of unforced errors today because when you hit flat and you’re nervous, you are going to make mistakes. But, yes, she can make the top 20. She’s already added some more pace to her first serve, now she needs to work on the second serve.
“The thing to remember is that she’s still only 20. This is all new to her: it’s the first time she has got directly into Wimbledon, she’s just recently broken into the top 100. She’s gaining experience rapidly and her ranking is going to go up after reaching the third round here – just give her time. She seems to have the desire to take it all in and to work hard so the top 20 is a capability; it’s not a guarantee, but it’s a capability.”
This was promising stuff. The WTA’s ranking projections were looking good, too, with Watson expected to climb from No.103 to around the 77 mark when the new list comes out after The Championships.
But all that is for the future; in the here-and-now, Watson thinks she has learned a lot from her week at Wimbledon and, at the same time, the crowd has learned a lot about her. This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
“They were absolutely amazing throughout the whole match,” Watson said. “I was getting support six‑love, three‑love down. It was good. And it's so nice for me to play here at home in front of the home crowd. I just want to do well for them and keep coming back and playing for my country.”
Watching player and punters form what ought to become a lifelong bond was a bit like watching Peter Pan, with Watson as Tinkerbell, Radwanska as Captain Hook and the crowd as, well, the crowd. Poisoned by the evil Hook, Tinkerbell needs everyone in the audience to believe in fairies or she will die. And if they believe, they should clap their hands. The Centre Court crowd believed all right, and they clapped for all they were worth but, alas, this time Captain Radwanska was determined that Britain’s new tennis fairy was not going to make it past teatime.
But Watson will be back; she is itching to get back. With what she has learned from her loss – “I think I tried to do too much and then I tried to do too little,” she admitted. “I just wasn't getting it right today” – she can get back to the practice courts and start work. And with the launch pad of an improved ranking, she can then build on her Wimbledon experience as the summer progresses.
“It's a great learning experience for me,” she said. “I've learnt a lot today. I'm going to come back stronger and improve from this.”
If a 6-0, 6-2 score line does not worry Tracy Austin, it ought not to bother Watson unduly either. Our Heather has plenty to look forward to. Watch this space.