By Ros Satar, in Eastbourne
- Heather Watson [WC] def. Dominika Cibulkova  7-5 6-4
- Faces Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round
EASTBOURNE, UK – Heather Watson seems to rounding out to good form just when it counts as she edged defending champion Dominika Cibulkova to reach the third round of the Aegon International.
Heather Watson [WC] def. Dominika Cibulkova  7-5 6-4
The grass court season has been fair to middling for Britain’s Heather Watson. After reaching the final of the Surbiton ITF event at the start of the season, Watson played two competitive but ultimately short-lived campaigns in the two WTA tour events leading up to Eastbourne.
In both though, she felt that things were about to click. While she bowed out in straight sets to Alison Riske in Nottingham, she was a lot more competitive against Elina Svitolina, taking a set of the No. 2 seed.
Swiftly jumping out to a 3-1 lead over last year’s Wimbledon quarter-finalist, Dominika Cibulkova showed the same kind of tenacity that took her to the WTA Finals title last year, as she pegged Watson back as they traded breaks. Watson would break her to love to seal the first set.
The Brit kept up the pressure, forcing Cibulkova to save a couple more break points, before breaking her for a 4-2 lead. The end was a nervy affair with Cibulkova saving three match points in the next two games, breaking Watson in the process.
Watson, a former semi-finalist here in Eastbourne, broke for the spot in the third round.
She looked back over the grass court season, saying: “I felt really good in my match against Svitolina. I felt like I had loads of opportunities in the match. It was quite similar to the match against [Lesia] Tsurenko with break points and game points but just wasn’t able to convert. But as far as like striking the ball and my tennis, I felt really good.
“So I was gutted to not get through that one. And then Nottingham the week before when I played Alison, it was also the same. I felt good on the court but just didn’t get the result. Now I feel like it’s coming together.”
Watson [WC] v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova  – First meeting
As the last vestiges of a great sunny day in Eastbourne died out (and we will not be saying any of those again any time soon) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will be Watson’s next opponent.
It is rare at this stage of their respective careers to have not faced each other before, but Watson can expect this to be a tricky match-up on grass. The Rissian has powerful ground strokes and a good serve, which will earn her some quick points.
Watson will need to be pinpoint sharp on her returns. She loves coming into the net and she will need to put her scrambler’s talent to good use to try and open up the court and move Pavlyuchenkova around.
She has the variety and hopefully a couple of good wins here will help her over the finish line to a spot in the quarter-finals.
Prediction: Watson in three sets.
Featured Image Credit: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
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