Watson: ‘It’ll feel strange with no fans at the Games’

HEATHER WATSON says she is ‘prepared to be underwhelmed’ by the experience of playing in the Tokyo Olympics, which gets under way in a fortnight’s time – a year later than planned.

Heather Watson in action at Wimbledon where she enjoyed playing in front of her home crowds. There will be no fans cheering her on in Tokyo, though, due to the pandemic. (Picture by PA Wire, 29705435)
Heather Watson in action at Wimbledon where she enjoyed playing in front of her home crowds. There will be no fans cheering her on in Tokyo, though, due to the pandemic. (Picture by PA Wire, 29705435)

Although the 29-year-old is thrilled to be representing Team GB in a third summer Olympics, having appeared at London 2012 and Rio 2016, the prospect of playing in front of no spectators due to Covid-19 restrictions leaves her cold.

‘I’m fully on board to be a part of the Olympics, 100%,’ Watson said. ‘It was a big goal of mine and to make the team is an honour.

‘But, when it comes to the experience, I won’t get my hopes up too high because there’s no fans or anything. So it’s not going to be ideal. That’s why I’m just going to be calm about it.

‘London 2012 was one of the best experiences of my life and I expected Rio to be the same, although it didn’t quite live up to expectations for me.

‘What I’m saying – knowing what I know about there being no crowds – is I’m prepared to be underwhelmed, let’s just say.’

Watson suffered what was, by her high standards, a poor Wimbledon, exiting both the women’s singles and the mixed doubles at the first hurdle, although she did make it through to round three of the women’s doubles with Harriet Dart.

That in mind, she can perhaps consider herself fortunate that the side to represent Team GB in Tokyo was selected prior to Wimbledon rather than after it, especially with the sudden emergence of Emma Raducanu over the past fortnight.

Watson will be representing Team GB in the singles as well as the women’s doubles, alongside Johanna Konta, with the pairings for the mixed doubles still to be determined.

‘At the end of the day, we’re entertainers,’ added Watson. ‘It’s tough to motivate yourself when you’re out there week in, week out, with not even one man and a dog watching you.

‘That’s why being back at Wimbledon was really nice because at last we had fans, British fans, and we haven’t had that for so long.

‘I always like playing in front of a crowd, but I never knew just how much until they weren’t there.

‘That’s why it [the Olympics] will probably feel strange. We had no crowds, then we had crowds at Wimbledon, and now we’ll be going back to no crowds again out there.

‘I know there are reasons for that, and that we’re not out of this [Covid-19] yet, but to play in that kind of environment is just going to feel a little like a backward step, I guess.’

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