By Ros Satar
- Heather Watson def. Katerina Bondarenko 6-4, 7-6(3)
- Watson v Wang Qiang  | First meeting
- Kurumi Nara [Q] def. Harriet Dart 3-6, 6-1, 6-3
TIANJIN, CHINA – Heather Watson picked up just her second main-draw tour level win this year to set up an encounter with the No. 2 seed Wang Qiang, while Harriet Dart fell at the first hurdle.
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Heather Watson def. Katerina Bondarenko 6-4, 7-6(3)
It proved to be a battle of nerves between the current British No. 2 Heather Watson and the returning Katerina Bondarenko, after the birth of her second child. Nerves were jangling early as the pair recorded six straight breaks of serve after Watson’s hold in the first service game.
It was Watson who came out ahead of the trading breaks, but Bondarenko was able to break the Brit as she served for the set, with Watson then breaking for the first set.
In the second set there were plenty of opportunities again for both to take the lead, but the first nudge ahead went to Watson, but had the closing our jitters once more as four match points went begging as she looked to break for the win. That played on the Brit’s mind as Bondarenko broke in the next game, hanging on to force a tie-break.
The tie-break was no less dramatic with Watson edging ahead but losing her serve a couple of times, but dong just enough to edge the win – her first main draw win in China, and just her second since Wimbledon this year.
Watson v Wang Qiang  | First meeting
Next up will be a challenge as Watson faces the No. 2 seed and local girl, Wang Qiang. Born in Tianjin and with two titles last year (Guangzhou and Nanchang) to her name, she will be looking to add her local tournament to her tally. That being said, despite a great run to the US Open quarter-final, she was blitzed on court by Serena Williams for the gain of only one game, and since then her run in Asia has seen no back to back wins yet.
While she might not have the most power behind her shots, she is a shot-maker and focuses on placement and movement to make her game. Watson has tried to be a lot more aggressive and has pepped up her serve in recent years to try and compete with more powerful players, but this might be more a test of her ability to switch from attacking play to defence.
Confidence might be a little higher for the Brit, but her form still needs to find that consistency week after week, and at this stage of the season, it might just be a little too late for the kind of shock result run.
Prediction: Wang in straight sets.
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Kurumi Nara [Q] def. Harriet Dart 3-6, 6-1, 6-3
In the early hours of a UK morning, Harriet Dart took on qualifier Kurumi Nara, and started by far the brightest of the pair, dominating in the first set for a double-break cushion at 5-1 before Nara started to work her way back into the set.
Momentum was switching, with Nara running away with it in the second set for a 4-0 lead before Dart snatched at least a game. It was a quick brace of breaks to start the second set, before Nara built up a 3-1 lead. Dart claimed another break back to get things on serve, before handing the advantage back as Nara then served out for the match.
Watson and Wang are likely to be scheduled on Thursday.
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