MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22: Heather Watson of Great Britain plays a backhand during her Women's Singles first round match against Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic on day three of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)
Tennis | WTA Abu Dhabi | Watson survives Burrage test to advance to second round
ABU DHABI, UAE – Heather Watson survived a tour-level Battle of the Brits as she beat Jodie Burrage for the second time in as many months to advance at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Open.
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Heather Watson def. Jodie Burrage 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
Training partners and good friends, Heather Watson had to face Jodie Burrage across the net in her opener at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Open. For Burrage, it was her third match having played two qualifying matches, and despite losing in the last round, she came in as a lucky loser.
Not only that but Burrage was making her tour-level main draw debut against a good friend, but that did not stop the 21-year-old from starting the shaper of the two, breaking Watson to love in the opening game.
Watson had chances to break back and finally got her opportunity by getting one of the breaks straight back, but it was just a brief respite as she faced the long way round to reaching round two.
At first the pattern looked to be repeating, as Burrage was the first to break again at the start of the second set, but Watson took off at a click, breaking Burrage three times in a row to level the match.
The decider was a tight affair, with Watson taking the lead only to be pegged straight back, even seeing her first match point come and go under Burrage’s determined defence.
Watson fended off three break points to stop Burrage from taking a late lead, and broke for the match, admitting that it had been a real battle.
She told reporters, after the match: “I’m very happy to get through that one. I’m not taking anything away from Jodie at all, I know what a great player she is but I feel like my level was just way off today. I couldn’t find my serve, I couldn’t find my forehand, backhand, I just didn’t feel good out there but I thought that today I just fought really well and was able to scrap and just kept trying until the end and just got through it.”
There was plenty of praise for Burrage whose young career has already been blighted with ankle injuries but after her run of wins in the summer, shows a lot of promise with regards to the depth of players on the women’s side, coming through.
Watson continued: “There’s nothing that surprised because I know Jodie’s game super well. We train together all the time, she’s a good friend of mine. We’ve just played each other a few weeks ago in the Battle of the Brits. We know each other’s games inside out.
“I thought today she moved particularly well and turned defence into offence very well.”
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Watson v Ekaterina Alexandrova  | H2H tied at 1-1 (ITF)
It will be a very different affair when she meets Ekaterina Alexandrova for the third time. The pair have split wins, but their last encounter was over two years ago at ITF level.
Watson said: She’s been doing super well the last year or two. She’s very aggressive so I know it’s just going to be big-hit tennis.”
Tale of the Tape – Key Stats (2020)
1st Serve Return Points Won %
Return Points Won %
Break Point Conversion %
Break Points Saved %
Total Points Won %
(Source: WTA & Tennis Abstract)
Watson may well have to do more of her Houdini-esque getaways when it comes to being pushed in games, and Alexandrova will want to keep the Brit firmly pinned to the to the baseline. The Russian may well get a few free points with her first serve but can be attackable on the second, and Watson would do well to yank her off the baseline and bring her in.
If by her own admission she was a little rusty today, she will need to shake that off and will need to be far sharper on the returns and use her movement to catch Alexandrova off balance.
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