Watson makes history with junior triumph

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The Independent Online

Guernsey has a Grand Slam champion after Heather Watson last night became the first Briton to win the girls' singles title at the US Open.



The 17-year-old Channel Islander beat Russia's Yana Buchina 6-4, 6-1 to join Andy Murray, a champion here five years ago, as the only Britons ever to win junior singles titles at Flushing Meadows.

Recovering from a slow start, Watson played with great composure to beat an opponent who had the greater weight of shot but could not match her tactical nous or her movement.

Buchina, also 17, had too much firepower for Britain's Laura Robson in Saturday's semi-finals, beating the 2008 junior Wimbledon champion in three sets, but lacked the athleticism of Watson, who kept retrieving the Russian's best shots before forcing mistakes.

The match was held up in the second game because water had seeped through cracks in the court. When they resumed Buchina went into a 3-1 lead, but Watson won the next four games in succession as she found her rhythm, pulling her opponent around the court and creating chances.

Buchina broke back when Watson served for the set, but the Briton broke again to take a firm hold on the match. Buchina called for the trainer when trailing 2-1 in the second set, but it could not halt Watson's momentum.

The Briton served for the match at 5-1, went 30-40 down and saved break point with some excellent play, outmanoeuvring Buchina before hitting a backhand winner. On the first match point the Russian hit a backhand into the net.

"At the beginning she was hitting a lot of forehand winners, but I started to figure it out, and I played more topspinny balls to her backhand and was trying to force the error," Watson said afterwards. "I just thought to keep calm and play my game."

Watson, who dropped only 11 games in her last three matches here, was brought up on Guernsey but moved five years ago to the Nick Bollettieri academy in Bradenton, where she also attends a school.

She flew back to Florida last night and, although she will be excused from tennis lessons this morning, she will be back in the classroom this afternoon.

Watson's mother, Michelle, who has been with her here, was born and raised in Papua New Guinea, where she met her husband, Ian, who now runs the Guernsey Electricity Company. At her post-match press conference Watson described her father as "my idol".

She explained: "He's just always so calm. He says no matter how I do, he'll be proud of me. I haven't called him yet, but after this I'll call him and tell him how I did. He'll be really, really happy."

Bollettieri was also in the crowd. "She's a great kid and she has a great future," he said. "She works very hard at her game and she's played superbly here. She moves extremely well and once she gets stronger I think she can be a force to be reckoned with in the women's game."

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