Japan Open 2012: Heather Watson breaks more new ground in Osaka
Japan Open 2012: Britain's Heather Watson reaches her first WTA main tour final after beating Misaki Doi in two sets
After 22 years of drought since a British woman reached a main tour final, the lustre of the Olympic has touched home-grown sport one more time.
Just three weeks after British No1 Laura Robson reached her first WTA main tour final at the Guangzhou International, No2 Heather Watson has done the same in Osaka.
Both Watson and Robson reached the quarter-finals in the concluding women’s tournament of the Asian swing as both aim for career-high rankings at the end of the season this month.
But this time it was Watson who advanced to the final by beating home favourite, Japan’s Misaki Doi, in two tight sets, 7-6, 7-5. Her surprise opponent in the final will be the 134-ranked Kai-Chen Chang of Chinese Taipei, who beat Australian top seed Sam Stosur, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6.
In a closely-fought contest of two hours, the No71-ranked Watson broke through Doi in a second set of multiple breaks of serve to earn herself a shot at the title tomorrow against the woman who took out Robson, who was seeded in a WTA event for the first time in her career. That, like the Stosur semi-final, took Chang three tough sets and a final-set tiebreaker to decide the winner.
This is the second straight day that Watson has broken new ground. Until Osaka, she had not reached a WTA singles semi-final either. Before this week, her best WTA results were three quarter-finals, all last year, at International-level events in Auckland, Memphis and Quebec City.
What’s more, this week she has also reached the finals of the doubles with veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm. No wonder Watson has fallen in love with Japan: “This is my first year playing in Japan and I absolutely love it
“Getting to play doubles with Kimiko is so cool too. She is so popular here and the crowd support is amazing. I hope I can continue things tomorrow.”
Watson’s first Asian swing has been a baptism of fire. Since making her run to the third round of Wimbledon she had struggled to build on her 2012 success. She lost to Na Li in the first round of the US Open, then in Quebec she lost in the first round in a tight three-setter to Mona Barthel.
But hot-footing it to Tokyo, she played some morale-boosting matches. After winning through qualifying, she beat No30 Sabine Lisicki in the first round and then took a first-set tie-breaker from Maria Sharapova before losing her second-round match in three.
Watson’s Asian run dipped in Beijing last week where she lost in qualifying from a set up to Italian Camila Giorgi, but this week she has rediscovered her form to notch up a sequence of good wins over the Polana Hercog, the winner in Bastad this year, No6 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, and Pauline Parmentier, before defeating Doi.
Watson has already earned 200 points by reaching the final, enough to add a dozen places to her ranking and well above her July high of 67. A win would take her well into the 50s and earn her the first British title since Sara Gomer won in Aptos back in 1988.
With two finals back-to-back, Sunday 14 October will be a busy day for the woman from Guernsey, but it could be the most rewarding of her young career.