Heather Watson blown away after cloudburst

 

Flushing Meadows

Two months after becoming the first British woman for 10 years to reach the third round at Wimbledon, Heather Watson lasted just 81 minutes on the first day of the US Open here yesterday.

The 20-year-old from Guernsey, who was overpowered 6-2, 6-3 by China's Li Na, held on until mid-afternoon thanks only to a lengthy rain delay.

If Watson took advantage of a favourable draw at the All England Club – her first two opponents were both ranked outside the world's top 50 –fortune was not on her side here. Li, the world No 8, has been the outstanding player on the north American hard-court circuit this summer, reaching the final at Montreal and then winning at Cincinnati to secure her first title since last year's French Open.

She had too much firepower for Watson, who never looked like threatening the 30-year-old Chinese in the way she had troubled Maria Sharapova last year, when the Briton went within six points of causing one of the shocks of the tournament. Striking the ball beautifully from the back of the court, Li cracked 28 winners to Watson's 10 and broke serve five times.

At least it will not be the end of the tournament for Watson, who is playing doubles here with New Zealand's Marina Erakovic. They have won two doubles titles together this summer, in Stanford and Dallas.

Li has recently teamed up with Carlos Rodriguez, who was Justine Henin's long-time coach. Rodriguez, who had said on the Belgian's retirement that he could not imagine coaching any other player, has been working at an academy in Beijing for the last two years.

The association has brought immediate success and Li's renewed confidence was evident in her ball-striking. Watson, who at No 71 is the world's highest-ranked British woman, kept up with the pace for four games, but from 2-2 Li put her foot on the accelerator, winning four games in a row to take the first set in 36 minutes.

Watson made an early break in the second set to lead 3-1 but did not win another game. A swift finish looked likely until rain started to fall with Watson trailing 5-3. The subsequent interruption of nearly three hours only delayed the inevitable. Watson won just one more point on the resumption before Li closed out victory.

"I'm happy with how I played," Watson said afterwards. "I even feel I played better today than I did last year against Maria. I don't think it was Maria's best match last year, but today Li Na was on another level. She was hitting winners off balls I wouldn't think you could hit winners off, hitting lots of lines. She had a really high first-serve percentage and she just played better tennis. She played like a Grand Slam champion."

On a bad day for German tennis, Julia Goerges and Sabine Lisicki, who are both seeded, lost to the Czech Republic's Kristyna Pliskova and Romania's Sorana Cirstea respectively. Another German, Andrea Petkovic, who was in the world's top 10 last year but has been troubled by injury, was beaten by Switzerland's Romina Oprandi.

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor