US Open 2014: Heather Watson wins just two games in first round defeat

Subdued performance from the British number one results in early exit at hands of Romania's Sorana Cirstea

Flushing Meadows

Heather Watson has enjoyed a fine comeback year after her struggles following glandular fever but the  British No 1 suffered one of her  biggest disappointments of 2014 when she was beaten here in the first round of the US Open. Watson was crushed 6-1, 6-1 by Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, an opponent she had beaten in all three of their previous meetings.

Watson became the first Briton to win the girls’ title here five years ago, but has now lost in the first round on all four of her appearances in the senior draw. Her early exits were no surprise on the first three occasions as she was drawn against Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Simona Halep, but she must have fancied her chances against Cirstea.

The 24-year-old Romanian has slipped to No 80 in the world rankings, 34 places beneath Watson, who has made a spirited return to the world’s top 50, having been ranked as low as No 161 only six months ago.

When Watson hit a bold forehand return winner on the first point of the match and levelled at 1-1 by holding serve to love there was no indication of what was to  follow. But with Cirstea  striking the ball well and pushing Watson back behind the baseline, the 22-year-old from Guernsey won only one of the next 12 games.

Watson, who was the only Briton left in the women’s draw following Johanna  Konta’s defeat the previous day, struggled with her serve, hitting eight double-faults, and made too many errors. Two years ago Watson beat Cirstea in Miami despite trailing 5-0 in the deciding set, but such a recovery never looked possible here. The Briton double-faulted twice in the final game before  Cirstea closed out victory in only 54 minutes with a thumping forehand return.

“The first few games were OK, but as soon as I got  broken she started playing well the rest of the match,” Watson said. “I didn’t play very well. I made a lot of errors, a lot of double-faults. She hasn’t been in great form and I’ve been having a good year, so I didn’t expect to play like this.

“It was an opportunity on paper but she still played very well. I give her a lot of credit. I couldn’t find my serve. I’m not sure why. That’s definitely the best she’s played against me. I like playing against her, but she didn’t give me any breathing room today. I was pushed back and she also changed the direction well. I didn’t know which side she was going to hit to.”

Watson was clearly upset but tried to put the result into perspective – “It’s  disappointing but it’s just another week” – and knows the rest of the year offers an excellent chance to improve her world ranking. She won only one match on the main tour in the last three months of 2013 so has very few ranking points to defend in her next tournaments. She plans to play in Asia for four weeks, after which she may finish her season in October at the WTA event in Luxembourg.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, the champion here 10 years ago, lost in the first round for only the second time in her 12 visits to Flushing Meadows. The world No 22 was beaten 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 by New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic.

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