Watson excited about Wimbledon but it won't define her year

23 June 2014 / 09:44

Among Wimbledon's queens of mean, British hope Heather Watson wants to prove that nice girls can triumph.

Watson admits that life on tour can be lonely, with a strict pecking order meaning the star names are seen but rarely heard by those rising through the ranks.

But she's determined a fierce competitor on court can still be friendly off it.

The 22-year-old British number one is an approachable and popular fixture on the WTA circuit and she arrives at Wimbledon in form.

This week she became the first British player in 32 years to reach the last four at Eastbourne and claimed the first top-20 scalp of her career with a victory over Italy's Flavia Pennetta.

It means a likely improvement of ten spots on her current world number 70 ranking and gives her plenty of confidence as she prepares to take on another talented youngster, Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic, at the All England Club.

"Wimbledon is a big tournament for British tennis but it's not all about one tournament for the players," she said.

"There is no point doing well at Wimbledon and not getting consistent results throughout the rest of the year.

"You need consistency to establish your ranking, so that's why you can't base your whole year what happens there.

"I'd love to do well as it's a very special tournament, especially for British players. I need to remember that I've had some good weeks and I wouldn't have got into the draw if it wasn't for those performances.

"People talk about pressure on home players but this is my favourite season of the year. I don’t see any negatives in it at all, but then I never really look at negatives."

Watson has not had it easy since announcing her promise with a junior victory at the US Open five years ago.

She famously left her Guernsey home before her teens to follow her dream in Florida at Nick Bollettieri's famous school of tennis hard knocks.

In 2012, she sprained her ankle playing football on Christmas Day and went on a demoralising losing streak, that saw her question her future in the sport and drop her mother Michelle from her coaching team.

More early exits followed last year before she was diagnosed with glandular fever, with an ignominious first-round Wimbledon loss not improving her mood.

But the trademark sunny disposition that marked her breakthrough is back now the gloom of recent years appears to have lifted.

And a new coach, Diego Veronelli, and a new game plan is giving her rightful cause for optimism.

"It's been a tough couple of years but I'm a different person now," she added.

"I didn't really want to remember last year because losing is no fun but I'm enjoying my tennis now, and playing a lot better.

"You appreciate being fit and healthy but you are also stronger for the experience of being ill or injured, it can motivate you to find new levels with your game.

"Confidence is really important. I've got two titles already this year and I lost a tough game in the French Open to the girl that almost won it."

There is a sense that fortunes are finally shifting for Britain's women's tennis - with Watson and the injured Laura Robson leading the way.

There are five home players in the main draw at SW19 with Watson joined by Naomi Broady, Tara Moore, Samantha Murray and Johanna Konta.

And there is extra significance, with all playing for former British number one Elena Baltacha, who passed away in May after a short battle with liver cancer.

"It was an absolute shock that we are never going to see her again,” adds Watson, who was mentored by Baltacha when she joined the tennis circuit as a schoolgirl.

"Our thoughts are just with her friends and family and not just us British players but everybody in the whole WTA circuit is there, thinking about her."

© Sportsbeat 2014