Guernsey Press

Watson would play it for free

IT IS a relatively trivial problem to have, given what is currently going on in Ukraine, but trust Heather Watson to have her best run ever in a major Grand Slam singles at a tournament where there are no ranking points on offer.

Happy week: Heather Watson celebrates a singles victory. (Picture by PA, 31001106)

But that is the painful reality facing the Guernsey star after her best ever singles performance at Wimbledon.

Back in April the All England Club, which runs the Wimbledon Championships, took the bold decision to ban tennis players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s event following the invasion of Ukraine.

The following month the ATP and the WTA, the two associations which govern the upper echelons of men’s and women’s tennis respectively, countered by stripping Wimbledon of its ranking points, effectively making this year’s championships an exhibition event for which, admittedly, the players would still be paid handsomely.

At that point the likelihood of Watson, out of form and struggling with a hamstring injury, surviving one or even two rounds at Wimbledon seemed unlikely in the extreme.

Fast forward two months. Under normal circumstances a player ranked 120 in the world, as Watson currently is, might expect to climb 40 to 50 places in the standings after making it to the fourth round of the singles at Wimbledon.

As it is Watson will remain around the 120 mark, although her sterling efforts still netted her £190,000 in prize money.

However, it could have been worse. Had the 30-year-old Sarnian performed well at Wimbledon in 2021, she would have been unable to defend any points at this year’s championships due to the convoluted way in which the rankings are calculated, meaning she would have slipped down from 120.

As it is Watson lost in the first round of the singles in 2021. Proof, if it were needed, that even the occasional defeat sometimes has a silver lining.

‘Because of how far I got this year, I would like there to have been points,’ Watson said. ‘But I had nothing to defend from last year, so it wasn’t an awful situation for me going in.

‘To be honest, I didn’t think about it too much. There was no point – I had accepted it in my mind. I always want to do well at Wimbledon. If there were no points or no money, I would still want to go out there and win. It’s the only one that I would [play for free], mind. But, yeah, it means that much to me.'