Meeting in the same round two years in a row, Heather Watson again got the better of Kristyna Pliskova to advance to the second round of the Australian Open. It was difficult to know what to expect – despite trying to take as humorous a spin on hard lockdown, it was evident that in her first (and indeed only) match at the Grampians Trophy, Watson has been off the pace.
Not so on Tuesday as the first set saw no sign of a break point for either player on the way to a tie-break. The pair traded mini-breaks before Watson was able to break the Czech twice to take the first set.
A lapse in concentration from the Brit saw Pliskova take an early lead at the start of the second set, but Watson’s patience saw her regroup and get the break back, before immediately having to fend off another two break points from the Czech.
Watson hard her chances to break for the win, but in the resulting tie-break the pattern was similar as she closed out her spot in the second round, but she admitted for a time it was unclear whether she would even be able to take to the court.
She told reporters, after her match: “it’s always a tough match against Kristyna. I know her very well. We played here last year. We’re the same age, grew up playing against each other in junior tournaments. She’s got a really big serve. It’s kind of like a men’s match in that sense, always trying to hold serve, try as hard as you can to get involved in her service games.
“I’m really pleased with how I played the tiebreaks. I thought I stepped up my game when I needed to and played some of my best tennis in the big moments.
“Yesterday is the first day of practice where I felt like my game was starting to come back together. I was like, Okay, I found the timing.
“I didn’t feel as fit as usual, which is no surprise. Body’s definitely sore. I’ve had an ice bath the last few days. I’m taking care of my body very carefully because actually four days ago my left leg went into spasm and I couldn’t finish practicing. I was really worried about if I was going to be able to play my first round here.
“Fortunately it healed very quickly. I’ve just got to take care of my body, do everything I can, what’s in my control. That’s all I can do.”
Preview: Watson v Anett Kontaveit | H2H: Kontaveit leads 3-2
Next up for Watson is Anett Kontaveit, who came though her opener in straight sets, but not without some resistance.
Tale of the Tape – Key Stats (2021)
Anett Kontaveit  (22)
Tournament Previous Best
1st Serve Return Points Won %
Return Points Won %
Break Point Conversion %
Break Points Saved %
Total Points Won %
Perhaps one thing this pair have in common is that they have both learned to inject a lot more aggressive play into their game. That being said, given that they can both defend, both have a lot of variety in their games, and can move very well, their previous encounters have all been straight sets – we would really expect to see a lot longer, gruelling rallies.
While it was a measured win by Watson, with a lot of patience against a barrage of big serves, it will be a very different look of the ball on Wednesday, and hopefully that match-fitness is back on its way as this should be quite a physical match-up.
Obviously as a seed, Kontaveit has the edge, but it would be good to see this one go the distance for once in their encounters.
Prediction: Kontaveit in three sets.
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