HEATHER Watson of British and PNG parentage has qualified for the first round of Women’s Tennis Association tour’s AEGON Eastbourne Tennis International at Devonshire Park, Eastbourne, England.
The 18-year-old, whose best performance was winning the US Open junior champion last year, defeated fellow Brit Anna Smith 7-5, 6-4, Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Serbian Bojana Jovanovski, 6-1, 1-6, 6-1 and will play Canadian and former top 20th seed Aleksandra Wozniak today in the first round.
Ranked 355th in the WTA Watson, who is ranked in Britain’s women’s top 10 gained a wild card entry and has progressed well.
The AEGON International has attracted eight of the world’s top seeded women players, including current world No 9 and last year’s women’s US Open champion, Belgian Kim Clijsters and recent French Open winner and world No 6 Francesca Shiavone of Italy as well as Australian top seed and world No 7 Samantha Stosur.
Watson, whose mother Michelle hails from Maprik, East Sepik, and father Ian from Manchester, was born and raised in England and has been playing tennis since the age of seven and at age 12, she left home to go to the American Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, USA.
Watson is right-handed and plays with a two-handed backhand. Her game is often likened to Martina Hingis and she has been praised by Bollettieri for her “amazing footwork”.
Moreover, her great on-court intelligence, court sense and stellar timing have been other talking points about her game.
According to Nigel Sears, head of women’s coaching at the Lawn Tennis Association, Watson possesses “a complete game,” with a lot of variety including the consistent use of a one-handed backhand slice, volleys and angles.
Others, including Watson herself, have also identified her game as similar to ATP player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga due to her “big serve” and “tremendous athleticism”.