Guernsey Press

Watson on her way to SW19 with a wild card

Heather Watson can finally uncross her fingers and breathe again.

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Heather Watson in action against Marie Bouzkova in their women's singles match at the Rothesay Classic at Edgbaston Priory Club, Birmingham. (Picture by Mike Egerton/PA Wire, 33341464)

The 32-year-old Sarnian has been granted a wild card by the All England Club into the women’s singles at this year’s Wimbledon Championships, which start on Monday 1 July.

The decision by Wimbledon’s hierarchy to grant Watson a wild card was far from guaranteed.

Despite playing well against tough opponents, her results over the past fortnight on the grass courts of Nottingham and Birmingham have been relatively disappointing, meaning her world ranking plummeted this week from 158 to 198.

In addition, the competition for wild cards into this year’s Wimbledon has been ferocious, with former grand slam champions Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and fellow Brit Emma Raducanu among the string of well-known players vying for one in order to gain automatic entry.

Traditionally only players in or around the top 120 in the world qualify automatically for Wimbledon.

Besides a wild card, the only other way Watson was going to play singles in the main draw this year was by coming through the qualifying competition, which starts next week.

Confirmation that Watson had received a wild card, made at 10am on Wednesday, means she has been spared the notoriously brutal qualification route.

‘It (Wimbledon) is the big one for me,’ Watson has said. ‘I love playing there.

‘It’s not the only tournament, but it is the most special. I think many players think like that, no matter where they are from.’

In granting Watson a wild card, the All England Club took into consideration her previous form at the Championships which has included some memorable high points.

As recently as 2022 she reached the fourth round of the singles, the furthest she has ever managed at Wimbledon, while in 2016 Watson won the mixed doubles event alongside Henri Kontinen of Finland.

This year she will almost certainly compete in both the Wimbledon women’s and mixed pairs, although alongside who has yet to be determined.

This welcome news follows the previous day’s heartbreaking defeat in the first round of the Rothesay Classic women’s singles in Birmingham. The wild card, who also needed medical treatment, led Czech eighth seed Marie Bouzkova 5-2 in the deciding set only to lose five straight games and fall to a 3-6 6-4 7-5 loss after nearly three hours.

‘I am super-tired but I think it was a great match. What a way to start the grass-court season,’ said Bouzkova.