French Open 2015: Heather Watson has to dig deep but sees off Mathilde Johansson

Johansson is a formidable ball-striker who regularly goes for broke, especially on her forehand

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In the last 21 years, British women have won only five matches in the main draw here at the French Open. Elena Baltacha accounted for one, while the other four have been down to Heather Watson, who is through to the second round, thanks to a 6-4, 7-5 victory over France’s Mathilde Johansson.

Although the form book suggested that the Briton, 23, should beat an opponent ranked 183 places beneath her at No 228 in the world, the task was not as straightforward as it might have seemed. Johansson is a formidable ball-striker who regularly goes for broke, especially on her forehand. When she finds her target, as she did in the early stages in particular, the 30-year-old Frenchwoman can be a dangerous opponent.

Watson, who also had to contend with the noisy support of Johansson’s home crowd, stayed calm throughout and, crucially, kept the rallies going.

The Briton had to come from behind in both sets, Johansson having led 4-2 in the first and served for the second at 5-4. The statistics told their own story: Johansson hit 27 winners to Watson’s 13 but made 42 unforced errors to her opponent’s 14.

“I think I dealt with the important moments and points well,” Watson said.

“I won them when I needed to win them. I didn’t necessarily do anything special. I just made her play and made her play that extra ball.”

In the second round Watson will face Sloane Stephens, who beat Venus Williams, her fellow American, 7-6, 6-1. Stephens is ranked five places higher than Watson, but the Briton has won all four of their previous meetings, most recently in Hobart this year.

Jo Konta was left to regret the eight set points she failed to convert in a marathon first set tie-break as the Czech Republic’s Denisa Allertova beat the British No 2 7-6,  4-6, 6-2.

Allertova, ranked 55 places higher than Konta at No 88 in the world, won the tie-break 19-17. Konta recovered well to take the second set but was unable to maintain her improvement in the third.

Agnieszka Radwanska’s miserable year took another turn for the worse when she was beaten 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 by Germany’s Annika Beck. The former Wimbledon runner-up, who parted company with Martina Navratilova only four months into their coaching arrangement, recently dropped out of the world’s top 10 for the first time since 2011.