Watson shines in rainy Eastbourne

By Ros Satar

  • Heather Watson keeps calm and carries on in the Eastbourne draw
  • Harriet Dart gives returning Dominika Cibulkova a tough time before bowing out
  • Johanna Konta and Watson get Centre Court outings on Tuesday

Heather Watson helped bring the last rays of sunshine to a long and trying day for tennis fans in Devonshire Park as she booked her place in the second round.

For a time it felt as though Watson would be one of the matches bumped to the second day, but after enough brightness to get the first matches of the day on in the afternoon, the sun came out as if there had never even been a hint of rain.

That is not to say it did not cause some issues as the sun crossed the court, as Watson explained after she defeated America’s Varvara Lepchenko 7-6(5) 6-2.

“It definitely wasn’t easy. Varvara’s a great player, so I knew it was going to be tough today. I just had to hang in there. I think we both made quite a few more unforced errors than we would like. But I thought I just stayed tough. Thanks to the crowd for their support and for keeping me going.

“I absolutely love playing here on Centre Court. I love it here at Eastbourne. At times I was finding it quite hard with the sun. We had half the court in the sun and half in the shade, but I won’t use that as an excuse.”

Watson showed a lot of maturity today. She has wanted to play with a lot more aggression, but it can make her game a little hit and miss at times, so when it was not working today she purposefully switched to a more patient, constructive game that reaped rewards.

She explained: “I was definitely not as aggressive as probably I’d like to be, but I thought I was making too many errors today. So I played to win. I competed. I used what I had today.”

Watson will face WTA Rising Star Elina Svitolina in the second round. The British No. 1 has actually suffered greatly in the rankings this week with the addition of the extra week in the grass court calendar. Her semi-final points from last year dropped off, and with a first round exit in Birmingham, she dropped from 47 to 64 – 17 spots down the rankings, in the week where the Wimbledon seedings and draws will be done.

It’s a first time meeting for the pair, and Watson will need to determine whether her approach will yield the results against aggressive play of the Ukrainian. She has a big serve, but Watson has the agility to return and hang in the point but may find her more patient approach as displayed on Monday.

Meanwhile Konta will start the day against the fourth seed Ekaterina Makarova. She led the British charge with a solid win over Zarina Diyas. Facing a Wimbledon quarter-finalist could be daunting, but Konta has been racking up Top 100 wins over the grass court season, making Diyas her fourth scalp on the grass.

Konta and Makarova are scheduled first on Centre Court, with play scheduled to start at 11am BST, and Watson and Svitolina are scheduled last, not expected before 5pm BST.

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