Watson weathers storm to progress in Melbourne

Two-time Olympian Heather Watson believes the blustery Melbourne conditions played into her hands as she successfully booked her spot in the Australian Open second round with a three-set win over Czech Kristyna Pliskova.

The 27-year-old - who competed at London 2012 and Rio 2016 - had arrived at the first Grand Slam of 2020 in promising form following her run to the Hobart International semi-finals last week but had only won one match in her last six appearances in the Australian Open main draw.

And Watson’s fortunes looked bleak when Pliskova - twin sister of second seed Karolina - took the first set 6-4, appearing to settle better into the tie which had been pushed back to Wednesday as a result of Monday’s rain washout.

But the Guernsey-born star rallied to claim the second set 6-3, and gradually found her best form to cruise her way through the decider 6-1 and become only the second Briton left in the singles draws.

Having overcome her opponent - ranked 10 places higher than her in the standings - Watson suggested she had been better equipped to adapt to conditions similar to those she had grown up surrounded by at home.

“Being the first-round match and it being postponed, I felt a bit nervous on court in the first set and was a bit tense,” she said.

“But after that I managed to loosen up and relax and start enjoying it and I thought my game improved more and more as the match went on.

“I don't mind the wind at all. I like it and the way I play - slice, drop shots, and change of pace balls - I think it works well in the wind, and I'm patient.”

Having joined Harriet Dart in the second round, Watson will now come up against Belgian 16th seed Elise Mertens as she bids to make round three of the Australian Open for only the second time in her career.

Having beaten Mertens in their quarter-final meeting in Tasmania last week, Watson added: “She's a great player and tough competitor and very solid so it will be a tough match.

“I think coming in it will give me confidence for sure to know that I can beat her, especially if it gets close in those tight moments.”

Elsewhere there was disappointment for British No.1 Dan Evans, with the 29-year-old crashing out in the men’s second round to 71st-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka 6-4 6-3 6-4.

Evans - who was competing in his first Grand Slam as a seeded player - had produced heroics to overcome American Mackenzie McDonald in round one but was well beaten by his Japanese opponent.

He said: “I knew it would be difficult. Some days you look forward to matches and I didn't look forward to it. I just find him overly awkward. He made it literally as awkward as possible.”

Rio 2016 competitor Dom Inglot and Pakistani partner Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi were knocked out of the men’s doubles in the opening round to Dutch-Romanian duo Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau 6-1 3-6 6-2.

Sportsbeat 2020