Heather Watson comes close to Sharapova upset

Aug 30, 2011

US Open: Guernsey player joins the British luckless losers club

Why can't our tennis players ever apply the coup de grace when it matters, British fans of the sport are asking yet again, as the luckless losers club of Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski and Andy Murray welcomed a new member yesterday in New York - teenager Heather Watson.

Watson, 19 and appearing at Flushing Meadows as an adult for the first time, gave third-seed Maria Sharapova a huge shock on the first day of the US Open after she won the first set 6-3 and stood on the verge of victory at 5-5 in the second set.

Only then did the Russian, who won the US Open in 2006, put her foot on the gas and take the final two sets 7-5 and 6-3.

In pushing Sharapova to two-and-a-half hours in the first round, the Guernsey-born Watson served notice to the tennis world that despite her lowly world ranking of 104 - exactly 100 below the Russian - she was a talent to be reckoned with.

Half Papua New Guinean, half English, Watson is another product of Nick Bollettieri's tennis academy in Florida which has previously nurtured such callow talents as Sharapova, Andre Agassi and the Williams sisters.

After working her way through the British junior ranks, she arrived at the 2009 US Open seeded 11th as a junior, and proceeded to win the tournament as a 17-year-old.

She went professional that year, and has battled her way up to her current ranking, reaching the second round of both the Australian and French Opens in 2011.

However, while she has attracted praise from many - Murray said that "when I saw her for the first time, I thought she was good. I like the way she moves on the court" - she has yet to move on from her early glories.

As the inevitable 'Battling British' script played out yesterday, @LackJevey nailed it on Twitter when he observed: "Yes Watson is young, but is that such an excuse? Pova won Wimbledon at 17, Watson just happens to be playing a monster today"

Fellow tweeter @PulpGrape agreed, noting a "sense of de ja vu here. Watson will no doubt lose to the better player and we'll reflect on what could have been".

But there is potentially a second chance for British women's tennis at Flushing Meadows. Laura Robson, 17, the country's number four seed and a winner of the Wimbledon junior title, made it through to the second round when her Japanese opponent Ayumi Morita pulled out.

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