For the local audience at least the focus for the next fortnight will be firmly fixed on Serena Williams, but as the world No 1 sets about her quest to become only the fourth woman in history to win a calendar-year Grand Slam, Britain’s Heather Watson still thinks about the day when she could have ended the American’s hopes of glory.
Watson, who begins her US Open campaign today against Lauren Davis in one of the opening matches, came within two points of beating Williams in the third round at Wimbledon last month. Asked here how she felt about having come so close to stopping Williams’ assault on the record books, Watson admitted: “That breaks my heart, questions like that, but I do think about it.”
The world No 61 and her coach, Diego Veronelli, went through a video of the match against Williams when they went to Buenos Aires for a training block after Wimbledon.
“At 30-30 I was serving to give myself match point,” Watson recalled. “I hit a forehand that kind of wrong-footed her and she just got it back. I’m thinking: ‘If I’d hit it just a little bit harder, then I could have had match point.’ But then I wouldn’t have known and she played the next point too well. She’s so experienced and knows how to control her nerves and everything so well. That’s why she won.”
Watson added: “I’ve watched the match and that’s like the worst thing ever because I just want to go back and hit that shot a little different. But I can only learn from it now and make sure I don’t make the same mistake next time. I was close but, at the end of the day, I didn’t do it, did I?”
Having won only one main-draw match since Wimbledon, Watson said she did not feel she had capitalised on her performance against Williams. “I haven’t played in the way I have wanted to since that match,” she said. “I feel like I’m slowly starting to find my game and now I need to start winning.”
Flushing Meadows is where Watson made her big breakthrough when she won the US Open junior title. She has not won a match in the main draw in her three subsequent appearances in the senior tournament but it remains one of her favourite events.
“I really love the place,” she said. “I love the city, the courts. I feel like every year I’ve come here, prepared for my matches and I’ve always felt really good on these courts. I feel like this is my game.”
Watson has never played 21-year-old Davis, who is ranked No 84 in the world. “I’ve practised with her a few times but not recently,” Watson said. “I think I know her game quite well because I’ve seen her play quite a lot on the tour. She’s quite small and a very good mover, a nimble road-runner, a hustler, so I will have to be aggressive and confident with my shots.”Reuse content