Watson snapped a two-match losing streak against the American in quite some style coming back from an early break and once she hit the front, she never looked back. Stephens started the brighter, as Watson looked like she was over-pushing her shots, with Stephens taking full advantage with a break before the first sit down.
A sloppy game from Stephens in the middle of the set handed the break straight back to Watson, and once she consolidated, it was full steam ahead for the Brit. She broke the 20th seed once more before serving out for the first set.
That momentum stayed with her as she broke Stephens at the start of the second set, and twice more, including a run of 16 straight points, while Stephens won just four points in the entire second set.
Watson now advanced to the third round for only the second time, where she lost to Victoria Azarenka in 2012.
Watson announced in her on-court interview that she was very pleased with her performance and that she is a very different player to the one Wickmayer has had the measure of three times in their career meetings.
It has been three years since they last met, as Watson was still struggling to get over glandular fever. Although she had stated 2013 strongly, she missed most of the clay court season and did not win any back to back matches for the rest of that year.
She fought her way back into the Top 50 the year after and finished just outside at the end of 2015. Not defending her Hobart title cost her ranking places, but it has been clear to see that with the success of Johanna Konta, and Naomi Broady snapping at her heels, the Brits are pushing themselves on.
Watson’s confidence is high, and despite needed to defend fourth round points in Indian Wells (she fell in the second round), she was out in the second round last year in Miami, so this is a bonus.
Wickmayer’s year did not start well with her only back to back wins coming in Acapulco, where she made a run to the semi-final, losing to eventual champion Stephens. She was bounced out of Monterrey by British No. 1 Konta and finally has two wins in a row here in Miami.
Their matches in the past have included two three-setters and as a powerful and athletic baseliner, Wickmayer’s strengths are flat attacking ground-strokes but can be coaxed into a lot of unforced errors. Watson probably posses a little more variation, and it’s time she got her first win over the Belgian.
Prediction: Watson in three sets.
Miami Open play continues at 11am (3pm, GMT).
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