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Heather Watson can't hide excitement as she targets top 40 place

By Paul Newman

Her season has only just ended, but Heather Watson is already looking forward to new challenges. Forty-eight hours after becoming the first Briton to win a Women's Tennis Association title for 24 years, the new world No 50 was back at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton yesterday and talking of her targets for 2013.

"I'm so excited – I can do even better, climb the rankings and maybe get another title or two," Watson said. "I haven't set my goals yet. I'll be doing that over the next few months. It will probably be top 40 before top 10. I set reasonable goals. This year I wanted to get inside the top 50 and I had that goal from start to finish. I've just got to keep focused on the right things and not get too far ahead.

"I've always believed I can win a WTA title. Earlier in my career I had opportunities to win titles but haven't believed in myself as much. Now that I have done it, I have the belief I can do it. It has definitely given me more confidence and I am really looking forward to next year."

Following her victory in the Japan Open, Watson received so many messages of congratulation that she has yet to reply to them all. Among the first to contact her were Victoria Azarenka, the world No 1, and 18-year-old Laura Robson, who was replaced by 20-year-old Watson as British No 1.

Watson said Robson was a rival and friend. "We spur each other along," she said. "We are competing all the time. But that doesn't mean we can't be friends off the court. When it comes to court time, we will do whatever we can to win. We are both great players who can achieve great things. We're both so competitive in whatever we do. When we see each other doing well, we want to do just as well or even better."

While Watson's speed and athleticism are major assets, she is working hard on becoming more aggressive on the court and attacking the net. She believes that her successes in doubles this year – she won two doubles titles on the WTA tour and was runner-up in the doubles in Osaka on Sunday – have helped in that respect.

"I love to volley," she said. "I love playing doubles and that helps my game more, just being more aggressive. That's how I will approach my practices now. I'll come in hitting the ball harder, so it becomes more natural and I get used to it. The women's game is just so 'boom-boom' and, if you don't take the first opportunity, the other player will. To get to that next level, you have to be able to do this.

"I have been working on my fitness a lot. In matches I am normally the one on the defence because I can move quite well. But recently, especially, in this last tournament, I have been stepping out and really hitting the ball a lot harder and hitting more winners than I usually do. I think my serve is really turning into a weapon rather than just a shot to start the point."

Watson will return home to Guernsey for the next three weeks before heading to London to start her winter training, which she will complete back at the Nick Bollettieri academy in Florida, where she has been based since the age of 12.

"It's definitely time for a rest," Watson said, though she admitted that part of her wanted to carry on playing now that she has won her first title. "I've got this momentum and confidence, but I'll bring that into my training block and into 2013."

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