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Heather Watson looks on bright side despite exit

By Paul Newman

Published 26/05/2016

Off the pace: Heather Watson on her way to defeat at Roland Garros
Off the pace: Heather Watson on her way to defeat at Roland Garros

The four British women in the main draw of the French Open promised much but in the end they had just one win to show between them.

Heather Watson, who had beaten Nicole Gibbs in the first round, followed Laura Robson, Johanna Konta and Naomi Broady of the tournament when she was defeated 6-1 6-3 by Svetlana Kuznetsova.

There was no shame in losing to one of the game's most experienced campaigners and Watson gave credit to the Russian for playing "a lot better than me".

Kuznetsova struck the ball consistently well and her return of serve was particularly damaging. Watson, who was constantly forced on to the back foot, held serve only twice in the match.

"I thought she just played a lot better than me," Watson said afterwards. "She played really well. In the first set I thought she was flawless. In the second set I had a couple of chances, but she just played really well.

"I remember at 4-2, to win that game she hit a backhand behind the baseline on the run down the line. There wasn't much I could do. I fought the whole way through and tried.

"I tried different things - drop shots and a few lobs. The lobs definitely didn't work. The drop shots did but I didn't get an opportunity to hit them."

This is 30-year-old Kuznetsova's 14th consecutive appearance in the main draw. She won the title in 2009, was runner-up in 2006, a semi-finalist in 2008 and a quarter-finalist on four other occasions. Although not quite the force she was, the World No.15 is still a formidable ball-striker and competitor.

Watson's struggles on her serve put her on the back foot from the start. The only game she won in the first set was on Kuznetsova's serve.

The second set started more promisingly for the 24-year-old Briton as Kuznetsova double-faulted, but once again Watson paid for failing to capitalise.

At the sixth attempt Watson finally held serve to level at 2-2, but normal service was resumed when Kuznetsova broke again and then went 5-2 up. Watson held once more before Kuznetsova served out for victory after just 72 minutes.

It has, nevertheless, been a fair clay-court campaign for Watson, who has surely achieved a place at the Olympics. The field for Rio is decided by the world rankings at the end of this tournament. Watson should stay around her present position of No.56, which would be good enough to qualify.

Belfast Telegraph

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