PARIS, FRANCE – Heather Watson bowed out of the French Open in a frustatingly up and down match, but looks ahead with positivity to a full grass court season.
Elise Mertens  def. Heather Watson 6-3 6-4
Confidence is a fragile thing – when it is gone, it takes time to build up, and the road is long. Heather Watson has picked up a couple of wins in a clay court season that may not necessarily play to her strengths but lost in a war of attrition against 16th seed Elise Mertens.
With all too fleeting flashes of solid serving with pace and depth that had Mertens on the full stretch, to breaks more often than you’ve had hot dinners, the Belgian came out on top with just a little more consistency when it counted – which was not saying much in a game that featured eight breaks of serve in the first set (seven of them consecutively), and five in the second set.
Watson at times looked frustrated that she could not impose any kind of will at all on the game – any time she clawed her way back, the momentum would just as easily switch back. With the pair finally holding for a couple of games it was the Belgian on the driving seat to serve out the match, and two unforced errors into the net sent the 16th seed, as expected, into the third round.
Watson was pragmatic as she assessed her performance: “I felt like in the match today it was very up and down for me. Slow start. Sort of found my way. Same in that second set being 4-1 down, fighting back to 4-All. I thought — I was very happy with parts, but also very disappointed with other parts.
“I had glimpses of playing well, but I just wasn’t consistent throughout the match. And when it was important at 4-All, I just made a few too many errors. And just today, I didn’t serve as well as I have been.
“I think I was more frustrated with myself that I was giving away so many free points. And just on the serve, as well, mainly for me. But, yeah, I think what she did very well is just made me play that extra ball very often. And, I mean, it works when you are pretty inconsistent.”
While the couple of wins from Nurnberg and here might seem sparse, compared to a couple of months ago, it is a welcome sign of improvement from the girl from Guernsey. Confidence does not appear in just one single win, but through a number of elements.
Watson explained: “I’m definitely feeling a lot more positive than I was a couple of weeks ago. I am happy with how I’m playing, how I’m feeling.
“And I’m playing — it depends how I do in doubles here, but I’m signed in to play Surbiton, and then Nottingham, Birmingham, Eastbourne, Wimbledon, which is fine for me, because it’s easy playing at home. But, yeah, I’m feeling positive and confident and I love playing on the grass.”
Watson has teamed up once more with Germany’s Tatjana Maria, with whom she picked up a title earlier in the spring.
She said: “I played with her in Acapulco this year, and we won that tournament together. We’ve played a few times before that as well. And she’s a good friend of mine. We get on really well. Just really enjoy it with her. And I think we do well because we have good fighting spirit, and we complement each other’s games well.”
More importantly it gives Watson a chance to get some match play in to sharpen up ahead on a surface that was by far her strongest over the past 12 months.
Play continues at Roland Garros at 11am (10am BST).
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