When Heather Watson was bedridden with glandular fever earlier this year, she could not help wonder if she would even be a part of this year’s Championships at Wimbledon.
“When I was at home and not feeling well, I was stressing a bit and saying to my Dad: ‘I need to play Wimbledon, I need to play the grass-court season, I cannot miss it.’ And he was like: ‘Listen, you have got to get well first, you can't be thinking about that.’ But I am here and I am playing, I am so grateful and thankful.”
Watson's return to the All England Club is another step on the road to recovery after her two month lay-off. The Championships gave the 21-year-old something to aim towards during these dark days at home.
As nice as it was to spend an extended period of time with her parents in Guernsey – a place she normally only spends two weeks of the year – the 21-year-old was desperate to be back in time to play at her favourite tennis venue.
“I absolutely love it,” said Watson, currently ranked No.57. “For me that's the best thing about tennis, playing on Centre Court in front of everybody and winning - that is just the best feeling in the world. That is why I do it.”
After making her return at the French Open, Watson has picked up some decent match time on the grass, playing four matches in Birmingham and Eastbourne, including one of the best wins of her career, beating world No.27 Varvara Lepchenko in straight sets.
Watson’s break has renewed her enthusiasm for the sport. “I haven't had a break longer than three weeks since I was six years old,” she said. “It was nice to have a little mental and physical break.”
Watson faces a tough opener on Tuesday against world No.53 Madison Keys. The 18-year-old American has long been tipped for big things ever since she won her first WTA match at the age of 14, before beating Serena Williams 5-1 in a World Team Tennis exhibition match just a few months later.
Watson will draw on the experience of reaching the third round last year, in which was knocked out by eventual runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska, who she could potentially play at the same stage again this year if both make it through.
“The experience of last year is good,” said Watson. “Before last year I hadn't won a singles match [at Wimbledon] in seniors or juniors. I was very pleased to get a win because I put a lot of pressure on myself.”
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
20:19It was the wackiest of Wimbledons with the most unlikely of headline-makers: Sergiy Stakhovsky, Steve Darcis, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Kimiko-Date Krumm, Jerzy Janowicz, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli...View all