Watson makes progress despite loss to Azarenka


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The Independent Online

Losing 6-0, 6-2 might not sound like the most encouraging of results, but Heather Watson had good reason to feel positive despite her defeat in the third round in Miami on Sunday night. Although she was well beaten by Victoria Azarenka, the 19-year-old from Guernsey won one more game than she had in losing to the world No 1 at the Australian Open, while the tournament marked a significant upturn in her fortunes after three difficult months.

Watson has only recently been able to play without strapping on an ankle after suffering an injury while playing football at her base, the Nick Bollettieri Academy at Bradenton, Florida, in December. After breaking into the world's top 100 last year, she has slipped to No 129, which puts her behind three Britons, Elena Baltacha (No 61), Anne Keothavong (No 74) and Laura Robson (No 120).

Having arrived in Miami, where she was given a wild card, without a victory in the main draw of any WTA events this year, Watson reached the third round thanks to two excellent wins last week. She beat Romania's Sorana Cirstea, the world No 48, despite having trailed 5-0 in the final set, and then knocked out Lucie Safarova, the world No 25.

Azarenka, who now plays Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova, has won all 25 matches she has played this year, taking titles in Sydney, Melbourne, Doha and Indian Wells.

Venus Williams continued to make good progress in her first tournament since revealing at last year's US Open that she has been diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, an auto-immune disease. Having beaten Petra Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion, in the second round, Williams saved a match point before beating the Canadian wild card Aleksandra Wozniak 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.