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Eastbourne 2014: Heather Watson hits new heights

Heather Watson lunges for backhand during her third round match against Agnieszka Radwanska.
by Stuart Fraser
Thursday 19 June 2014

Highlights from the third day of the AEGON International in Eastbourne. Wimbledon.com reports...

Major headlines

Britain's Heather Watson picked up the best win of her career as she fought back from a set down to beat world No.12 Flavia Pennetta at the AEGON International.

Watson earned her first ever top-20 scalp with a 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-2 victory over Pennetta which sees the 22-year-old just one win away from becoming the first British semi-finalist in Eastbourne since Jo Durie in 1982.

It was a stunning display of aggression from Watson who bounced back after letting slip a 4-1 lead in the first-set tie-break. The world No.70 struck the ball with intent and raced to a 3-0 lead with a double break in the deciding set before going on to clinch victory in fitting fashion with a forehand winner down the line.

It is a sign of things to come from Watson, whose movement has always been excellent but has lacked the weapons to hurt the top players. Since hooking up with coach Diego Veronelli in December 2013, they have worked hard to incorporate more attacking play into her game.

Watson said: “I decided in the off-season last year that I wanted to become this more aggressive player and Diego agreed. We have both been working on it. He's been adding things to my game.

“I think aggressive is the way forward and that's what I'm going to keep trying to do. Even in that first set tie-break, at 4-1 up, I had a second serve. I hit it, I missed it and you could say that was a turning point in the tiebreak when I lost it, but I'm glad I went for it rather than just trying to make it. No regrets.”

Watson faces a last-eight clash with 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who comfortably beat Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 6-4.

Caroline Wozniacki continued her dominating hold over Sloane Stephens as the Dane won 6-3, 6-3 in just 65 minutes to book her place in the last eight. Wozniacki has now won all 10 sets in their five encounters, with Stephens struggling to stay patient in extended rallies against her steady opponent.

Wozniacki said: “I like the fast ball and the pace I get from my opponent's shots. I think there are some players that you feel more comfortable or some styles of play that you feel more comfortable than others.”

Wozniacki now takes on Italian Camila Giorgi, who came back from a set down and saved a match point in the deciding set on her way to a hard-fought 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory over British wild card and Eastbourne resident Johanna Konta.

Elena Vesnina saw the defence of her title end in the last 16 as she was defeated 7-5, 7-6(9) by 19-year-old-American Madison Keys, who now goes on to face compatriot Lauren Davis who knocked out Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 6-3.

In the men’s draw, top seed Richard Gasquet faced a tough test in his opening match against Bernard Tomic before coming through 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, while defending champion Feliciano Lopez opened his campaign with a tight 7-6(10), 7-5 win over German qualifier Tobias Kamke.

Sixth seed Gilles Simon’s fortunes were summed up by the forehand return with which he accidentally hit a ball boy by the side of the net as he faced match point in his 6-3, 6-4 defeat by fellow Frenchman Julien Benneteau.

Biggest upset

Watson’s win over Pennetta was undoubtedly shock of the day, as was the manner of the Brit’s dominance in the deciding set.

Watson said: “That is my highest win so far, but I wasn't really looking at it like that. I was looking at my goals and what I want to achieve. [It] doesn't matter who I was playing. I just wanted to get to that next round.

“I knew my game plan and had a good one with my coach and just kept fighting even after a tough first set. I just stuck in there and kept positive.”

Best match

Angelique Kerber’s victory over Alize Cornet in a third-set tie-break after 2 hours, 27 minutes provided an entertaining start to the day on Court 1. Emotional Cornet failed to convert two match points, double-faulting on one of them, as fifth seed Kerber battled hard for the win in a drama-packed final set.

They said

“One of our family’s good friends is from Uruguay. He asked me the other day, ‘you better be supporting Uruguay’. I'm like, ‘well, I will be supporting England’. He's like, ‘no, no. You have to reconsider that. [Luis] Suarez is from Liverpool and he plays for Uruguay’.” – Caroline Wozniacki on who she will be supporting in Thursday’s World Cup clash between England and Uruguay.

“Honestly, I think there is some aggression in me. I'm normally quite chilled and laidback, but if you start a fight with me, then you'll see the aggression.” - Heather Watson on whether her newly-found aggression also extends off the court.


Despite being on the match court for 1 hour, 43 minutes against Richard Gasquet earlier in the day, Bernard Tomic hit the practice court later for a session with coach and father John which lasted at least two and a half hours. Understandable considering he has not won back-to-back matches on tour since Sydney at the start of this year.

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