Watson ready for senior test

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The Independent Online

Three Sundays ago Heather Watson was celebrating her victory in the final of the US Open junior tournament, the first British girl ever to win the New York title. Today the 17-year-old from Guernsey faces a very different challenge when she plays her first match in the Aegon Pro-Series event in the north Devon town of Barnstaple.

There will be only a smattering of spectators at the Tarka Tennis Centre to watch Watson take on Mel South, the British No 4 and world No 142, but it will be a rare chance for the Nick Bollettieri student to test herself in the senior game and make progress in the rankings. World No 3 in juniors, Watson is No 681 in seniors.

Watson's feet have hardly touched the ground since her triumph at Flushing Meadows. The following day she was back at the school attached to Bollettieri's academy in Bradenton, Florida, where she was big news in the school's own newspaper, and by the end of the week she was playing in a senior tournament in Saguenay, Canada. Having won two qualifying matches, she then lost in three tight sets to Valerie Tetreault, the world No 133 and No 2 seed.

Last week saw a flying visit to the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton and next week Watson will head back to Florida for a few days before travelling to another senior tournament in Puerto Rico. Her mother, Michelle, who lives with her in Florida, will be with her throughout, but she has not seen her father, Ian, who runs the Guernsey Electricity Company, since August. "I speak to him every day on the phone when he's finished work," Watson said.

For the next year Watson will play in both junior and senior tournaments. "You have to make adjustments," she said. "You have to take every opportunity you get in the women's game. In the juniors you can let a few chances slip. In the seniors people's livelihoods are at stake. Players will do anything to win."

She added: "In juniors everyone knows each other and says: 'Hi'. In seniors you get on to the practice court and the next people on want to kick you off early. It's very serious and not so nice."

Watson will be playing doubles this week with Laura Robson, Britain's 2008 junior Wimbledon champion. "We get along very well," Watson said. "I remember us going on a trip when I was 12 and she was 10. I started to really get to know her about two years ago."

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