Guernsey Press

Heather’s winning run ends in semis

HEATHER WATSON’S terrific run at the Rothesay Open came to an end at the hands of the new British number one.

Heather Watson in action during her match against Katie Boulter in the semi-finals of the Rothesay Open 2023 at the Nottingham Tennis Centre. (Picture by Nigel French/PA Wire, 32220544)

Katie Boulter booked her place in her first WTA Tour final and ensured she will return to the top 100 by beating her GB teammate on Saturday in Nottingham.

Boulter cemented her new top Brit status on her run to the final, beating Harriet Dart in the quarter-finals on Thursday and then getting the better of Watson with a 6-4, 7-5 victory.

The 26-year-old, from nearby Leicestershire, went into the week ranked 126 but has guaranteed she will be back in the top 100 next week for the first time since 2019.

At that stage, Boulter looked set to push on towards the top 50, only for a stress fracture in her back to rule her out for seven months, and her progress has been stuttering since.

This was the first all-British semi-final at tour level since Sue Barker and Virginia Wade used to meet regularly in the latter stages of tournaments in the 1970s.

Grass suits Boulter’s hard, flat hitting and she broke the Watson serve to lead 3-2 before a 90-minute rain delay disrupted things.

Watson immediately broke back on the resumption, but, with both women complaining about line calls, Boulter moved ahead again before clinching the set.

Watson looked set to take it to a decider when she led 4-1 in the second set, but Boulter saved four break points in the sixth game to stay in contention and won six of the last seven games.

There had been tension between Boulter and Dart at the net over the former’s celebration, but here the two players shared a lengthy hug.

Katie Boulter (right) greets Heather Watson at the net after defeating her in the semi-finals of the Rothesay Open 2023 at the Nottingham Tennis Centre. (Picture by Nigel French/PA Wire, 32220551)

‘It means so much to me, especially here. It was a really tough match. I just tried to put my heart on the line and managed to get through it in the end,’ Boulter said.

‘I’ve worked so hard for this, me and my team. I’m just going to keep plugging away and, even if this isn’t my moment, that’s OK,’ she added ahead of only the third all-Britsh WTA final with Jodie Burrage.

Watson, 31, who came through qualifying, had progressed to the last four by beating Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic 7-6 (2) 7-5 in Friday’s quarter-finals.

‘It feels absolutely incredible,’ said Watson on reaching the last four, sealing victory with an ace.

‘I’ve been on tour for a very long time, and I’m really proud of myself for continuing to fight through the ups and downs.

‘I love tennis, that’s why I continue to play and the reason I fight for moments like this, in tournaments like this and to play in front of crowds like you.

‘I got asked in the press about my thoughts on British women’s tennis at the moment and I know all the girls are ranked in the mid-100 range. I know from practising with them all the time that we are all ranked not where our games are at, and all playing better than that, so I’m not surprised there are three of us in the semi-finals.’

Watson joined forces with Dart to reach the doubles final in Nottingham, winning another all British semi-final by beating Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday, having already come through two previous rounds in straight sets.

They lost a thriller in the final to Ulrikke Eikeri and Ingrid Neel, .