The start of the match looked as though Heather Watson and her fighting spirit would be tested to the limit as she was broken at the start of the match by Kristina Mladenovic but rallied to break straight back.
Watson would find herself under pressure, fending off five break points before breaking the Frenchwoman for an advantage. However, leaving two set points begging left it to the resulting tie-break for Watson to make her mark, taking the lead.
With another brace of breaks between them in the second set, it was Mladenovic’s turn towards the end of the second set for set points to go to waste, and Watson was perhaps unlucky to get broken at the end of the second set.
It was a loose game in the decider that gave the Frenchwoman the final advantage as another one of their long battle came to an end, leaving Watson cutting a frustrated figure in press afterwards.
Watson said: “We always seem to have a long one. Yeah, today I just felt really inconsistent. I didn’t feel good about myself and my game today. I had some good shots here and there, but just really inconsistent.
“I definitely felt better in Birmingham. I guess it’s just tough when you’re not winning as many matches as you’d like. I wasn’t thinking about it coming in, but when your ranking is dropping, as well, it’s just frustrating.
“I think on a fast surface like this, a shot here and there can really change momentum, and I felt that especially in the third set when I had that bad call. it just changes momentum so quickly.”
Watson comes into Wimbledon now just lacking a little of the ‘killer’ instinct she joked about in Birmingham. There she described it using Johanna Konta’s shark analogy – being able to take chances and finish off points decisively – which comes with match confidence.
She said: “I will head back to London and just keep working at it, keep doing the same things, training hard. I think I’ll try and get a lot of sets in these next couple days, because obviously I haven’t been playing many matches.”
Even with an added week, and lower tier tournaments running during the second week of Roland Garros, the grass-season warm-ups are over in the blink of an eye, before the main event at SW19.
“[The season] is short, not so sweet this year. But, you know, tennis is so up and down. It’s just such small margins all the time, so you can miss out by the smallest bit and vice versa.
“You can just scrap yourself through to a tournament win. Like last year when I came into the grass I played Surbiton and I wasn’t feeling amazing, but I ended up getting to the final there and had a great run here and Wimbledon, and, you know, once you get that bit of confidence, you can just sort of just run with it.”
Watson reached the third round of Wimbledon last year, falling to Victoria Azarenka. Having fallen short of defending some decent ranking points from last summer, Watson will not have much time to dwell on the disappointing warm-ups.
“Today I’m not feeling very positive, but from tomorrow I’m going to have to be. Yeah, I’ve just got to just forget about it, just move on, put it in the past and just focus on Wimbledon. It’s a great opportunity. I love playing there. I still love grass, despite my results this year so far (smiling).”
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