Heather Watson: Hero or Villain?


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The Independent Online

She may have lost resoundingly to the world No 3 Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round of Wimbledon on Friday, but young, personable Heather Watson is already well on her way to becoming a firm Wimbledon favourite.

After last year winning the sympathy of the crowd when she Tiggerishly bounded into the first round only to suffer an elbow injury that effectively knocked her out, this year she became not only the first British woman to win a match on Centre Court for 27 years, but also the first to defeat two top-100 players at the tournament since 1998 and the first to make the last 32 in a decade.

And if that weren't enough, she did it with a smile, a jig of delight … and that great British staple, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, for brekkie every day. The meal has become a charmingly idiosyncratic superstition for the 20-year-old. Some might think it hoity-toity for a player who will rise to a top-100 ranking only once Wimbledon is over − but it's not as though she's drinking champers alongside; she can save that for her first Grand Slam final.

And that day may not be so far away if she keeps playing as convincingly and joyfully as she did in the first two rounds at SW19, with wins she attributed partly to her varied superstitions. There's the food, of course; then there are her towels, which she sprints to give to the ballboys; and perhaps most intriguingly, there's the neon laces. After tripping up to the 25th seed in bright pink at the French Open, she has enjoyed noticeable results by swapping them for lime green in London. Quite what the colours mean is anyone's guess, but if it works …

Watson has already won the US Open as a junior, and if she can do half as well as fellow Nick Bollettieri academy alumnae Maria Sharapova and Martina Hingis, she'll have the British public on her side for some time to come. For now, it is enough that the Guernsey-born player is a breath of fresh air − and hope. Roll on Wimbledon 2013!