Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson sets up potential Serena Williams clash after beating Daniela Hanutchova in straight sets

Watson won 6-4 6-2

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The Independent Online

Heather Watson loves a big stage, especially at her home Grand Slam tournament, and here she earned the chance to play the biggest match of her career. The reward for the British  No 1’s 6-4, 6-2 victory over Daniela Hantuchova is a third-round meeting tomorrow with Serena Williams, world No 1 and perennial favourite to win every tournament she enters.

“I’ve never played Serena before, so I’d love to play her,” Watson said after equalling her best run at a Grand Slam tournament. “She’s an amazing athlete, a great champion. She’s always the one to watch.”

Williams earned her place in the last 32 by beating Hungary’s Timea Babos 6-4, 6-1 in just 59 minutes in the day’s concluding match on Centre Court. Asked afterwards about the prospect of playing Watson, Williams said: “She plays really well on the grass and she loves playing at home. I never like playing the Brits at home so that’s going to be a really tough match.”

Watson will at least have the benefit of a day of rest before her big test. Even for a player who has grown used to extreme heat during her years at Nick Bollettieri’s academy in Florida, the 23-year-old from Guernsey admitted that the scorching conditions had been tough to handle. It was her third day in succession on court, her first-round victory over Caroline Garcia having been spread over two days.

When Watson hit three double faults to go 3-1 down in the opening set it seemed that it might be a long afternoon for the world No 59. However she quickly settled and went on to play some highly effective attacking tennis. At 32, Hantuchova may not be the player she was, but the former world No 5 is still a good ball-striker capable of punishing tentative opponents.

From 3-1 down Watson won 11 of the last 14 games. The Briton chased down balls to all corners of Court One and hit some delicate winning drop shots as well as some thumping winners.

Watson, who had saved three match points before beating Garcia, said: “I thought I played a lot better today. I hit the ball a lot harder. I was a lot more aggressive. I served well. That’s how I need to play if I want to win matches like that. Against somebody like Daniela, if I’m just going to make the ball, she’s going to put it away. Those are the matches I have to win. I can’t wait for them to be given to me.”

When asked last week if there were any players she would prefer not to be drawn against here, Watson said Williams was the only one. The world No 1 has won the title here five times, though she has failed to progress beyond the fourth round in three of the last four years, losing to Marion Bartoli, Sabine Lisicki and Alizé Cornet.

This year, nevertheless, Williams has been in superb form. She has won both the Australian and French Opens and is now aiming to become the first woman to win a pure Grand Slam of all four major titles in the same calendar year since Steffi Graf in 1988.

Watson, meanwhile, guaranteed herself prize money of £77,000 with her second-round victory, which will be particularly useful as she has just bought her first property, in the Wimbledon area. “That has been a big goal of mine for a long, long time,” she said.

When Watson reached the third round here three years ago she won only two games in losing to Agnieszka Radwanska. Watson believes the experience will stand her in good stead tomorrow. “I wasn’t sure how to deal with it,” Watson said, recalling her defeat by the then world No 3 on Centre Court. “I remember overplaying totally and thinking she was going to be this amazing player that I was going to have no chance against. I tried to hit winners on the first ball. That was no good.”

An article in the New York Times this week revealed that Watson had received death threats, some from gamblers. “I’ve had people threatening to kill me and kill my family, wishing that I get cancer and die a slow, painful death,” Watson told the newspaper.

Asked about the threats, which came via Twitter, Watson said they had been made “a long time ago”. She said she was not too concerned about them but added: “Those people, they’ve got no life. They’re just kind of cowards thinking they can say whatever they want on the internet.”

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