Wimbledon 2022: Heather Watson wobbles, then makes the fourth round at last
But, after always tripping up at this stage, the Channel Islander has finally made the fourth round. She slumped to the turf like she’d won the tournament. Which in a way, following all the disappointments and all the near misses against stellar opponents like Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, she had.
Of course, it wasn’t elementary, Ms Watson. She looked like she might blow her big advantage over Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan. “It wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t a bit of drama at the end,” she laughed, as No 1 Court cheered.
“Honestly, I wasn’t nervous,” the 30-year-old insisted as a 5-0 lead in the second set began to teeter. No one believed her, but when she invited the entire crowd back for her next match against Germany’s Jule Niemeier, a deal was struck.
But had she started to think she was never going to make it? “No chance,” she said. “I wouldn’t still be playing if I thought that ship had sailed. I was just sort of waiting for it to happen. But, yes, I waited long enough, I think.”
Long enough for Watson’s mother Michelle, originally from Papua New Guinea, to become a familiar face around Wimbledon, always in her daughter’s box, always hoping. “I’ve barely seen my mum because she’s such a social butterfly, always chatting to someone somewhere,” said Watson. “But she’ll be proud - she always is. She’s a great tennis mum, win or lose, and always has belief in me.”
Juvan, nine years Watson’s junior from the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, has a more interesting life than most away from the courts. She paints and studies the philosophers, Rene Descartes being her favourite, he of “I think, therefore I am”.
After an even beginning to the match Juvan broke first, Watson’s serve letting her down. But she regained parity right away, foxing her opponent with expertise in geometry that had Juvan scurrying from corner to corner.
A slip on the turf from Watson gave up another opportunity but she composed herself and was brave with a crosscourter. Then, however, she veered from bold to safe and from bold to timid and a cagey set went to a breaker. Watson held three set points only to fluff them. But another double-fault from her opponent handed her the set.
Watson broke Juvan right away in the second set, then did it again, her backhand lob a feature. Juvan couldn’t find a way back into the match, continuing to double-fault and fluffing the simplest of shots at the net, leaving Watson to serve for the match. She mucked up the first opportunity, and back on serve played some horribly nervy volleys to flirt with collapse once again, but finally got herself over the line.
“For the last shot I was saying to myself: ‘Throw yourself at the ball - do anything you can to get it over the net,’” she said. And that’s where it went. I’m British, therefore I never go further than round three? Not any more.
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