Wimbledon 2013: Ailing Heather Watson is 7th Brit to fall in 1st round

Wimbledon 2013: Heather Watson is the seventh Briton to lose in the first round after a straight-sets defeat by Madison Keys

heather watson
Heather Watson lost in straight sets on Tuesday Photo: Carine06/Flickr

British fans on the opening days of this year’s Wimbledon were spoilt for choice in both the men’s and women’s draws as play began at the All England Club.

On Monday, with seven Britons in action across the grounds, it was hard to know where to turn. The lucky ones had drawn tickets for Centre Court, where the home nation’s great hope, world No2 Andy Murray, took to this patch of sacrosanct grass for the first time since he won Olympic gold at London 2012.

And while Rafael Nadal was suffering the shock of his career on Court 1, Murray was moving seamlessly through Benjamin Becker, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. It was possible, too, that he could face another Briton in the next round, in the shape of the No219-ranked James Ward. However, Ward faced a mountain of a task in taking on Yen-Hsun Lu, and although he survived three and a half hours of close-fought tennis, he finally went down 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(11), 7-6(7).

On Court No3, British experience was followed by British youth, but neither fared well.

Elena Baltacha was the first casualty to Flavia Pennetta, 6-4, 6-1, and was followed by teenager, Kyle Edmund, who was given a wildcard after impressive recent results at Queen’s and Eastbourne. He lost out to the fast-rising Pole with a huge all-round game, Jerzy Janowicz, now ranked 22 in the world, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.

Elsewhere Samantha Murray, making her debut at SW19, fell in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, to Camila Giorgi, while Johanna Konta again looked impressive against former world No1 Jelena Jankovic, but still went out, 6-2, 7-5.

Anne Keothavong, in her 13th appearance at SW19, had to wait until the last match on Centre Court to play 19-year-old Garbine Muguruza but also lost in straight sets.

So with just Murray left standing from the initial seven on Monday, it was down to Britain’s top two women, Laura Robson and Heather Watson, together with debutante Tara Moore, to ‘fly the flag’ on Day 2.

Heather Watson, only lately back on the tour after recovering from glandular fever, was up first against the American 18-year-old Madison Keys, and it always threatened to be a close contest. Watson, though a former No39 before illness hit her, is currently ranked 56, her opponent 52.

Watson was making her fourth appearance at Wimbledon, where last year she reached the third round and went on to win her first WTA title at the end of year in Osaka. Keys, meanwhile, was making her first main draw appearance having fallen in qualifying last year.

But the second youngest woman in the draw is one of tennis’s rising stars who has recorded six wins over top-50 players this year, including Na Li in Madrid.

And that form showed very quickly, with Keys breaking in the third game of the opening set. Watson lived with the power hitting of the American through the set to the ninth, but Keys broke again to take the 6-3 opener.

Watson upped the pace at the start of the second, using her great movement to work three break points against Keys in the third game. She followed a wonderful winning backhand down the line with a great drop-shot pick-up to break, opening up a 4-2 lead. But Keys broke back in the eighth game and again at 5-5.

Now serving with venom and consistency—Keys hit eight aces in the match—she made no more mistakes, taking the match 7-5 with, of all things, a net-cord winner.

Watson admitted afterwards that she is still feeling the effects of glandular fever, not just the virus itself but her inability to get enough court time and training under her belt.

“I feel like my game isn’t back yet. I don’t think I served well today. I didn’t have a high first-serve percentage. My reactions are slow. I’m not moving like I usually move, getting balls back. I don’t feel like my game’s there yet, so that will come back with time, time to practise. I have a big gap now to get the training in, get some fitness training in.

“I wasn’t 100 per cent when I came back, and I’ve said that. But I think I came back at the right time. I wanted matches. I wanted to do fitness as I was coming back with the matches.”

So with seven Britons down, all eyes will turn to the top woman to join the top man in Wimbledon’s second round. It’s a typically big task for Robson against No10 Maria Kirilenko, but she has knocked out higher seeds than Kirilenko before.

The last British singles hope comes with Moore, ranked 198, against former quarter-finalist Kaia Kanepi.

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