Wimbledon: Watson ends home women’s 27-year jinx on Centre Court
BRITISH tennis was kept waiting until just after 9pm last night before being handed a reason to cheer, when 20 year-old Heather Watson pulled off the highest-profile win of her career against Iveta Benesova.
Watson’s 6-2, 6-1 win counted as the only British success of the day in the singles tournament, although fellow Briton Johanna Konta will resume her match with American Christina McHale at 7-7 in the final set today after their contest was suspended as darkness fell.
Watson will now play unseeded American Jamie Lee Hampton in the next round after being kept hanging around until late in the day to play her first round match. Not that Watson seemed to mind, and why should she? Not many British women can say they have won a singles match on Centre Court at Wimbledon before. Indeed, Watson is the first to be able to claim this distinction since Jo Durie in 1985. Those who stayed on to watch were well rewarded.
“This is my first singles win at Wimbledon, including juniors, so I’m so pleased,” Watson said. “I was lost in the moment, the crowd was amazing and I had the adrenaline going. I was having fun.”
Watson has played twice in the main draw at Wimbledon before, both times losing close encounters. However, she is full of confidence after reaching the second round of the French Open and showing good form on grass in the run-up to Wimbledon.
She wasted little time making headway on world No 55 Benesova, racing into a 4-1 lead, although it wasn’t always so straightforward. One game in the second set included 12 deuces and nine break points.
Watson, though, got there in the end, and then conducted her first post-victory press conference at Wimbledon. She reflected on the wait to find out whether her match would be staged on Centre Court, something which depended on the clash between Tomas Berdych and Ernests Gulbis being quickly resolved. Fortunately it was, Gulbis winning in straight sets. “We didn’t know until the last minute,” said Watson. “If Gulbis won in three then we were on Centre, and if not I think we were going onto Court No 1. When I heard I was really excited, because I haven’t played on Centre Court before. The crowd was awesome, I was getting the tingles, especially after I won and I got a bit lost and couldn’t find my way off court!”
Meanwhile, Venus Williams rejected the suggestion that she might be preparing to bow out from tennis after she suffered her worst defeat for 15 years when succumbing in straight sets to Elena Vesnina yesterday.
Her first defeat in the opening round since she lost in her first ever match at Wimbledon was not even close against her Russian opponent, who won 6-1, 6-3 on Court No 2. The 32 year-old later fielded the expected questions about her intentions after a career which has seen her win seven Grand Slam titles, five at Wimbledon. Williams, who suffers from Sjogren’s Syndrome, is eyeing an Olympic medal later this summer, and many have surmised that she may quit the sport after that.
“There’s no way I am going to sit down and give up just because I have had a hard time in the first five or six freakin’ tournaments back [after illness],” she said. “I am tough, let me tell you, I am as tough as nails.”
There is no doubt about whether Kim Clijsters is playing in her last Wimbledon. The Belgian, who will hang up her racket after the US Open, beat Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-4 yesterday to prolong her Wimbledon adventure for at least another couple of days.
French Open champion Maria Sharapova enjoyed a straight sets first-round win over Anastasia Rodionova, 6-2, 6-3.