Rome Premier 2015: Heather Watson wins debut match in Rome

British No1 Heather Watson eases past Italian darling Roberta Vinci in straight sets in first round of Rome Premier

By any measure, it has been an up and down year for the British women’s No1 player, Heather Watson.

Now ranked 41, she began the year with a career-high ranking of 38, courtesy of her second career title in Hobart—won without dropping a set.

In March, Watson scored her first top-10 win over No8 Agnieszka Radwanska, to reach the fourth round of Indian Wells.

This week, she made her debut appearance in the Rome main draw, having once lost in qualifying in 2011—and she is only 22 years old now.

But in between the highs have been troughs, much like she has endured over the last couple of years. Career firsts and ranking highs have been undermined first by glandular fever in 2013 and then by a persistent rib injury last year.

After Hobart, she lost in the first round of the Australian Open and Dubai and failed to qualify for Doha, before making that Indian Wells run. And after a second-round loss in Miami, she has made first-round exits three times, the latest in Madrid last week, and all to lower ranked players.

It was her misfortune in her first match in Rome to face one of Italy’s darlings, Roberta Vinci, the woman a decade her senior and formerly ranked at No11. However, her last meeting with the petite Italian was on her way to the Hobart title, a straight-sets victory.

This would prove to be an even easier victory for the Briton, in 67 minutes. She raced to a 5-1 lead in the first set, before Vinci made one break back, but sealed the opener, 6-3.

The second set went by in a flash of aggressive tennis from the Briton, beginning with a break and then fighting off break points for a 2-0 lead. Another break and it was 4-0, and she even had chances to break for 5-0, but had to be content with a final scoreline of 6-1.

Watson made twice as many winners as her opponent, and will next try her luck against either Mona Barthel or the ever-improving Carla Suarez Navarro, now ranked No10. And by chance, it was Suarez Navarro who beat her in the fourth round in Indian Wells—in a tough three sets.

In the top half of the draw, the top-ranked Italian, Sara Errani beat Daniela Hantuchova, 6-4, 7-6. She next plays qualifier Christina McHale, who was a surprise winner, 7-6, 6-1, winner over Barbora Strycova.

Also in the top half, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Sam Stosur, and will next face top seed Serena Williams. Timea Bacsinszky beat No11 seed Karolina Pliskova and Sabine Lisicki beat Sloane Stephens. No9 seed Angelique Kerber beat Alize Cornet, also in straight sets.

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