Wimbledon.com's thoughts on the action on the second day of the Aegon Classic at the WTA event at Edgbaston Priory Club...
The beaming smile at the end said it all. Having been diagnosed with glandular fever earlier this year, Heather Watson wondered during her two-month lay-off when and even if she would return, but the Brit took a major step forward in her comeback at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham with her first win since February.
Watson has developed a reputation on tour as a remarkable battler on the court and the 21-year-old has had to show plenty of that fighting spirit in her battle with the illness. Coming through 6-4 7-6 (7-0) against Melinda Czink in just her second match back on tour is a significant moment for Watson, who admitted after that she could not remember the last time she had won a match.
“I felt fitter today but, to be fair, the points were a lot shorter so it was never going to be hugely physical,” said Watson, who had radio and television presenter Colin Murray among her supporters on the Ann Jones Centre Court. “But I did feel better, more energetic. I have good days and bad days, but today was a good day.”
For those watching who were not aware she had suffered from glandular fever, they would never have sensed what she has gone through in recent months. Watson served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, having only dropped five points on serve until then, but the rain began to fell and she rushed, losing her serve before eventually clinching the match without losing a point in the tiebreak.
“After what has happened here, playing well and winning just motivates me more for the future,” said Watson, who plays Russian qualifier Alla Kudryavtseva in the second round on Wednesday. “When I was ill I was thinking I need to be back for the grass court season. I love it and I think it made me realise just how much I missed it and wanted to be back.”
There was further home success as Johanna Konta beat Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara 6-2 6-4. The 22-year-old now plays twelfth seed Kristina Mladenovic, who beat British wild card Tara Moore 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.
Moore belied her ranking of No.194 as she took the opening set against Mladenovic, the world No.39, and was just two points away from the match, leading 5-3 in the second set tiebreak before the French 20-year-old fought back to take the set and then stamped her authority in the deciding set to complete the comeback.
2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, the twelfth seed, was given a scare as she went 4-0 down in just 12 minutes against Anna Tatishvili before fighting back to win 2-6 6-3 7-6 (7-3) in two hours and ten minutes, while ninth seed Yanina Wickmayer was made to work hard for her 6-2 7-6 (7-5) win against Yulia Putintseva.
American qualifier Alison Riske, who knocked out Britain’s Anne Keothavong in the first round, claimed a major scalp as she beat the fourth seed and two-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist Tamira Paszek 2-6 6-2 6-3.
Laura Robson saw her first bit of action at the Edgbaston Priory Club in the doubles with Lisa Raymond but the pair lost 6-4 6-2 to Cara Black and Marina Erakovic in just over an hour. It was a tough draw for Raymond and Robson, who will also team up at Wimbledon this year.
“I think we definitely have a little work to do before Eastbourne and Wimbledon,” said 39-year-old Raymond, who won the women’s doubles at the All England Club with Rennae Stubbs in 2001. “But I wouldn’t be playing with Laura if I didn’t think we could do well.”
After receiving a first-round bye as the seventh seed, Robson will open her singles campaign on Wednesday against former world No.5 Daniela Hantuchova, now ranked No.60. Top seed Kirsten Flipkens and 2011 Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki are also in action against Ajla Tomljanovic and Kristyna Pliskova respectively.
16-year-old Donna Vekic also claimed a big second-round win to further underline her potential as she knocked out eighth seed Urszula Radwanska 6-3 6-2, showcasing her powerful game and sealing the match with an ace on the hour mark.