Wimbledon 2014: Aggressive Heather Watson beats lockjaw to topple Croatia's Ajla Tomljanovic
Despite unusual ailment, the British No 1's new front-foot approach secures straight-sets victory and a meeting with No 9 seed Kerber
Tales of British failure here, regularly as they have to be written, should perhaps be tempered by the fact that with the obvious exception of Andy Murray, home contenders tend to be playing opponents ranked much higher. A gap of eight places should, however, be bridgable with home advantage and Heather Watson duly made light work of the Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic, taking only 65 minutes to win 6-3, 6-2.
Meeting the ninth seed Angelique Kerber will be something altogether different, but at least the Channel Islander, a first round loser on three of her four previous Wimbledons, has made the second round along with Naomi Broady, who beat a player 71 places above her on Monday.
Briefly a top 40 player last year, Watson suffered from glandular fever to spoil her season and is still not sleeping well. “I woke up at 4am and again at seven,” she said. “It's become normal, it doesn't matter. Coming to Wimbledon with confidence, I really wanted to make the most of it and was a bit nervous. My jaw was locking and I couldn't even eat through my bananas. But as soon as we started playing I got into it.”
Watson was overshadowed here last year by a run to the fourth round by compatriot Laura Robson, whose wrist injury has kept her in the commentary box this time, allowing Watson to replace her as British No 1. She is now setting her sights high and was not content with reaching the semi-final at Eastbourne, losing to Madison Keys, despite beating a top 20 player for the first time in Italy's Flavia Pennetta.
“I'm very pleased with the win,” she said. “In a lot of her service games I didn't get close but when I did I took advantage. The crowd was really behind me the whole way and I really enjoyed playing on Court Three. I've never played [Kerber] before but I know she has a very unique style.”
In the first set she survived a break point in the first game but broke in the second and therefore had a 3-0 lead before Tomljanovic got going. A capacity to save break points kept her in front and although there was an occasional error at the net or in being caught too far forward she was bold enough to try. That is all part of the new aggressive approach under coach Diego Veronelli that has been bearing fruit this season.
Serving for the set she was relieved not to go 40-15 down but got a set point with a strong serve and thought she had won it when Tomljanovic's moon-ball was called out, only to prove on the replay to have touched the line. Replaying the point, Watson went long before earning another set point that the Croatian netted.
In the second set, she achieved an early break thanks to Tomljanovic's wild forehand and a second one on her opponent's wayward backhand to lead 4-1. Serving for the match, she produced a good, wide serve that had Tomljanovic stretching and hitting the return too long.
Rankings were difficult to compare in the case of Britain's Tara Moore, No 250, and the experienced Russian Vera Zvonareva, a former Wimbledon finalist who is technically No 561 after missing the whole of last season with a shoulder injury.
The pair were kept waiting until after 7pm for a start, by which time the wind was whipping up out on Court Two and clouds were darkening. In a match littered with service breaks - five in succession at one stage - Moore, a 21 year-old born in Hong Kong and now living in Doncaster, recovered from a set down to draw level before play was suspended for the day.
Home help could not produce what would have been an astonishing success for Manchester's Dan Smethurst, who was up against John Isner, the ninth seed with what Smethurst called “a ridiculous serve”. The American used it to good effect in winning 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 but not before Smethurst, ranked 234, had won a more than respectable number of games of his own.
“I didn't realise the crowd would get into it so much,” he said. “That was a great experience.”
Britwatch: State of the nation
A Murray plays B Rola (Sloven) in second round
D Cox lost to J Chardy (Fr) 6-2 7-6 6-7 6-3 in first round
K Edmund lost to A Haider-Maurer (Aut) 6-3 7-6 6-2 in first round
D Evans lost to A Kuznetsov (Rus) 6-1 7-5 3-6 7-6 in first round
J Ward lost to M Youzhny (Rus) 6-2 6-2 6-1 in first round
D Smethurst lost to J Isner (US) 5-7 3-6 6-4 in first round
T Moore plays V Zvonareva (Rus) in first round
N Broady plays C Wozniacki (Den) in second round
H Watson plays A Kerber (Ger) in second round
J Konta lost to S Peng (China) 6-4 6-3 6-4 in first round
S Murray lost to M Sharapova (Rus) 6-1 6-0 in first round
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