Heather Watson into Hobart semis as Brits advance in Melbourne

Britain's Heather Watson is through to the semi-finals in Hobart ahead of the Australian Open

While much of the UK was being battered by storms overnight, Heather Watson was storming through the draw of one of the last Australian Open warm-up tournaments in Hobart to reach the semi-finals.

The top-ranked British woman, at No49, Watson has yet to drop a set in taking out three higher-ranked opponents. She opened against No46 Magdalena Rybarikova, then defeated No5 seed Sloane Stephens, and overnight took out No9 seed Roberta Vinci. It is just the third time Watson has reached a WTA semi-final.

The 22-year-old woman from Guernsey came back from 5-2 down in the opening set to win 7-6 (0), 6-2, and will challenge for the final against the No8 seed Alison Riske. The two women have met just once before, in 2013, when Watson came back from a set down in the ITF event in Poitier.

That win was a rare one in what proved to be a difficult season for Watson. Although she started 2013 with a third-round run at the Australian Open to break into the top 40, she was hit by glandular fever and missed much the spring schedule. She would not win back-to-back matches on the main tour for the rest of the year, falling in the first round seven times and ending the season ranked 119.

But Watson worked back into form during 2014, playing through qualifying to reach the Australian Open, Indian Wells and French Open main draws. She then made the semis at Eastbourne and the fourth round in the big Montreal Premier.

Watson began her 2015 preparations partnering Andy Murray in the Hopman Cup, where she won her third singles match against the 29-ranked Casey Dellacqua.

However, Watson will be the only British woman in the Australian Open main draw after Naomi Broady and Johanna Konta both lost in the first round of qualifying in Melbourne.

There was better news for British men, however. Liam Broady, who turned 21 last week, and Kyle Edmund, who celebrated his 20th birthday last week, both reached the third and final round of qualifying.

Not only are their birthdays in the same week but they are ranked consecutively. The 193-ranked Broady, who next faces Michael Russell, has been a junior finalist at both Wimbledon and the US Open, while the 192-ranked Edmund, who takes on Australian Dane Propoggia, was a semi-finalist at both.

Andy Murray, seeded No6 in the Australian main draw, is already joined by James Ward, who won a special invitational against John Isner, 3-6, 7-6 (10), 6-2, in the rain-disrupted Kooyong Classic in Melbourne yesterday.

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