Watson: ‘Gave myself a chance today’ – Exits with Bedene in Wimbledon third round

By Ros Satar, at Wimbledon

  • Victoria Azarenka def. Heather Watson [WC] 3-6 6-1 6-4
  • Gilles Muller [16] def. Aljaz Bedene 7-6(4) 7-5 6-4
LONDON, UK – Heather Watson and Aljaz Bedene both bowed out of Wimbledon before the start of the second week, in the third round.

 

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Victoria Azarenka def. Heather Watson [WC] 3-6 6-1 6-4

With maybe just the merest hint of jitters Heather Watson took around four minutes to get her campaign underway, but they quickly subsided as Watson leapt out to what has now become her customary quick start. She jumped out to a 3-0 lead while the former Wimbledon semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka struggled with her range.

Yet a loose game ending in a double-fault gifted Azarenka a lifeline to upset the post-lunch Centre Court crowd dribbling in from Pimms and strawberries in the sun. The Watson of just a few months ago may well have dropped her head at this point – but the confidence of a good run of match wins in tight moments saw her break straight back.

Nerves may have fluttered just a bit as a lacklustre second serve got its just rewards, but Watson served out the first set comfortably. Even though Azarenka was still not quite as convincing, she took the early advantage at the start of the second set, jumping ut to a 3-0 lead, while Watson’s forehand went walkabout.

Her nerves may have been momentarily settled as she at least salvaged a game on the board and neither were on particularly sparking form, with Azarenka just slightly the less chaotic, as the second set was rapidly moving away from her.

There were still the flashes of smart execution as we had seen in the first set, and a couple of inspired passing shots soon had the crowd back from the brink, but they were far too few and far between as Azarenka levelled the match.

Watson needed to be fast off the blocks once more at the start of the decider, but found herself swiftly 0/30 down in the opening game. Some high-risk tennis got her out of trouble and it was clear she was going to have to be pushing for the lines to make the difference, and the gutsy hold in the third game brought out the kind of serving we had seen in the first set.

The Centre Court crowd were temporarily silenced as Azarenka broke for a 4-3 lead, but they just as quickly found their voices as she broke straight back. At the sharp end of set, a time violation warning after a lengthy rally for Watson dulled the tone as Azarenka broke to serve for the match.

It was the crowd’s last chance to lift the Guernsey girl to glory as she came within break points of levelling once more at 5-5. But despite trying to challenge as Azarenka brought up match point, Watson was unsuccessful with her pleas as the end came swiftly with the break of serve.

Watson went on to beat Azarenka and Nenad Zimonjic with her mixed doubles title-winning partner from last year, Henri Kontinen, joking that she really didn’t want to lose to her twice in one day.

Watson told reporters: “I was very upset after that match, to lose that one. I’ve been feeling so great about my game, within myself. Just felt like I’d fallen at the same hurdle again. It hurt a lot today. I felt that the match at the end there could have gone either way.

“We had a lot of long rallies and games that went back and forth. But Vika played great. I thought she got better and better as the match went on. She just kept applying pressure. I gave myself a chance today, and I was sad that I couldn’t take it.”

 

Gilles Muller [16] def. Aljaz Bedene 7-6(4) 7-5 6-4

Aljaz Bedene looks set to get back into the World Top 50 despite bowing out in straight sets to the No. 16 seed Gilles Muller. The Brit showed firm resolve to break Muller back in the first set, hanging on to force a tie-break but was edged by the man from Luxembourg.

It was a great competitive showing from the Brit, who will be duelling with Kyle Edmund for the spot of British No. 2 when the tour picks up again for towards the second half of the year.

He said, after the match: “Every time I give my best till the end. Unfortunately it didn’t work out today. I wasn’t playing my best tennis. But, I mean, he’s playing a little bit different, unique style, lefty, good serve, great slice. Yeah, just didn’t find my rhythm today. It wasn’t easy.

“One [thing to improve] is definitely a belief I can play on all surfaces, which I proved now, playing on grass, not just this week but in Holland as well a few weeks ago.

“But obviously I have to be more consistent. I’ll work every day hard just to improve my game. I mean, my coach knows what’s there to improve. I’m just going to listen.”

 

Play continues on Friday with the outside courts starting at 11am, and Centre & No. 1 Court at 1pm BST.

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