Guernsey Press

Positive Watson aims to make the last four

HEATHER WATSON will look to put a miserable 11 months behind her today as she sets her sights on reaching the last four of the prestigious Rothesay Open in Nottingham.

Heather Watson during her win over Tatjana Maria on day three of the Rothesay Open 2023 at the Nottingham Tennis Centre. (Picture by Tim Goode/PA Wire, 32214418)

The 31-year-old Sarnian has suffered a torrid time of it since making the fourth round of the women’s singles at Wimbledon 2022, watching her world ranking nosedive to a current standing of 195.

That is sure to improve over the coming days thanks to her form so far this week at Nottingham.

Win or lose her quarter-final against Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, it has already been a tournament to remember thanks to eye-catching straight sets wins in earlier rounds over Jule Niemeier and Wimbledon 2022 semi-finalist Tatjana Maria.

However, Watson’s ranking will not improve sufficiently in the near future for her to gain automatic entry into the forthcoming tournaments in Birmingham and, more importantly, Wimbledon.

When it comes to Wimbledon, there are three ways that a player gets to compete in the singles – qualifying automatically by way of world ranking, by coming through the qualifying tournament or by way of a wild card.

With option one out of the question, Watson has been left relying on the other two.

The qualifying tournament, held the week before Wimbledon, is brutal and there is no guarantee she would come through against players who have shown better form overall throughout 2023.

All of which leaves the wild card option.

Traditionally, wild cards are offered to players on the basis of past performances at Wimbledon, or to increase British interest.

Watson is a popular face not just around Wimbledon, but on the tennis circuit. She enjoyed a good Wimbledon last year and, lest it be forgotten, she also won the 2016 mixed doubles event at the All England Club alongside Henri Kontinen of Finland.

She has a fair-to-good chance of receiving one, in other words.

‘This year is a really strange one for me,’ Watson said.

‘I usually know exactly where I’m playing to the point that I don’t even have to think about it. After Nottingham it’s always Birmingham, then Eastbourne, then Wimbledon.

‘This year, because of my ranking, I’m really relying on wild cards for the grass court season.

‘My plan is to go to Birmingham, but after that it’ll either be Eastbourne or Wimbledon qualifying, then hopefully the main draw of Wimbledon.’

So does she think she’ll get a wild card into Wimbledon?

‘I couldn’t say – just pray for me. What I will say is I’ve had some good days this week. My attitude has been positive. I’m really happy with where my game and my fitness is at. My serve and return has been working well, which is one of the most important things on this surface.

‘I feel that each round I’m getting through, each match I get under my belt, I’m playing better tennis. I just hope to continue that form and hopefully the best is still yet to come.’