By Ros Satar
- Heather Watson def. Kristyna Pliskova 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
- Faces No. 16 seed Elise Mertens for the second time in as many weeks.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Heather Watson’s resurgent form carried her through a hard-fought win in terrible conditions to set up another clash with Elise Mertens.
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Heather Watson def. Kristyna Pliskova 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
The conditions at the start of this carried over first round between Heather Watson and Kristyna Pliskova were blustery to day the least, and the girl from Guernsey started to feel far more at home than her Czech counterpoint the more the match went on.
The first set was certainly not pretty tennis with very little chance of either player getting any kind of a rhythm and in fact it was more of a war of attrition in the conditions. Watson gave up her first game, but kept her composure to break back, only to lose that advantage as Pliskova seemed just a little more together.
The second set saw a chance pop up for Watson that she could not convert, in a more competitive set as both players seemed to manage the conditions better. With Watson finally getting her breakthrough as the only one to have break points at all in the second set.
From this point, Pliskova just seemed to completely unravel and Watson just grew in confidence breaking the Czech three times in a row to seal a win.
As reported by BBC Sport, the conditions were no bother to Watson, who reached the semi-finals of Hobart last week.
She said: “It was super windy today but I felt prepared because it was like that in Hobart a lot of the days. But being a first-round match and being postponed I felt a bit nervous in that first set and a bit tense.
“I managed to loosen up, relax and enjoy the match. I don’t mind the wind and with the way I play – a lot of slice, drops shots, change-of-pace balls – I think it works well. And I’m patient.”
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Watson v Elise Mertens  | Mertens leads H2H 3-1
On her way to the Hobart semis, Watson hit a milestone in finally snapping her three match losing streak against Elise Mertens in another hard fought match.
Her patience in both matches has been a welcome sight in her recent play, and she will need all of that to try and get back to back wins over the Belgian. They have both gone the distance in Hobart, and even Mertens’ straight sets win have not been complete dominations, so Watson definitely has it in her to take this match all the way and to go toe-to-toe with the No. 16 seed.
Her patience will be key, and she needs to keep her head. What helped her in the first round was adjusting to the conditions but taking the pace off her serve and her ground-strokes and building her shots and she will absolutely need to do the same and settle in for the long-haul against Mertens.
Mertens is very solid from the back of the court and can dictate play effectively off both wings and is perfectly happy coming to the net to finish off her points. In many ways she and Watson have similar all-court capabilities and she has obviously been a lot more consistent over recent months than Watson.
The Brit’s win over her for the first time in four attempts should give her the confidence to know that she can stay with Mertens, and being a confidence player, she should build on her great start to the year.
Prediction: Watson in three sets.
Watson and Mertens are scheduled second on Court 22, not before 12:30pm (1:30am GMT).
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