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Wimbledon: Watson wants home comforts as Garcia awaits

By Paul Newman

Published 29/06/2015

Relaxed mood: Heather Watson is looking forward to playing at Wimbledon as she takes on Caroline Garcia
Relaxed mood: Heather Watson is looking forward to playing at Wimbledon as she takes on Caroline Garcia

Heather Watson and Caroline Garcia, who meet in the last match on No 3 Court this afternoon, have very different attitudes to playing in their home Grand Slam tournaments. Garcia, the world No 33 and arguably France's most exciting prospect, has come to dread competing on the main show court at Roland Garros, while Watson "loves every aspect" of playing at Wimbledon.

Many current and past players from across the Channel have wilted under the pressure of playing at the French Open. Andy Murray's coach, Amélie Mauresmo, who is a former Wimbledon and Australian Open champion, never got past the quarter-finals. Richard Gasquet, one of the most talented of France's current generation, has never gone beyond the fourth round.

Garcia has won just two matches in five appearances at her home Grand Slam tournament. "I'm disillusioned," the 21-year-old Parisian said after losing in the first round to Donna Vekic last month. "I can't make it here. It doesn't depend on the opponent. It just depends on myself - and I can't play here at the French Open."

Compare that with Watson's attitude towards playing at the All England Club. "I enjoy everything that comes with it," the world No 64 said. "It doesn't seem like a job at a tournament like this. It seems really fun and exciting, a privilege to play. I love every aspect of it."

Garcia said that French crowds expected a lot of their home players. "They want you to play great tennis every single day," she said. "And you know that's impossible. You play great tennis two or three times a year."

Playing on Court Philippe Chatrier, the main show court at Roland Garros, has been Garcia's biggest problem. Even going to Roland Garros well before this year's tournament and getting in plenty of practice on the court failed to change her experience. "For me, it's too much to play on this court, and next year I will ask to play on court No 9, a sort of hidden court where there is nobody," Garcia said.

"When you're a kid and you're watching on TV you're dreaming about being on that court. Then when you are on it you just feel: 'Wow, that's huge.' It doesn't feel normal. When I played in Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open I didn't feel the same. But I've watched the French Open for two weeks every single year and it just feels uncomfortable."

Four years ago, at the French Open, Murray famously tweeted that he was watching a future world No 1 as Garcia pushed Maria Sharapova hard in the second round. Garcia was only 17 at the time and in the next couple of years seemed to struggle to live up to Murray's billing.

Did she think Murray's tweet had put her under too much pressure? "I would say that four years ago it was too early and my game was not ready. It was just too much pressure. It was just [based on] a match, or even just 10 games. It was too much. It took time, but now I've had a lot of experience. Now I would say that I'm used to the pressure from outside because I had it from a very early age. So now I would say it's less uncomfortable to get this pressure."

Garcia won her first title last year and has reached two finals this year. The Frenchwoman, who is coached by her father and is now based in Qatar, has one of the best serves in the women's game and loves to attack, whereas Watson relies more on her athleticism and defensive abilities.

Belfast Telegraph

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