Wimbledon 2015: 'Pumped up' Heather Watson goes through as Laura Robson shows flashes of form

Watson won 1-6 6-3 8-6 against France's Caroline Garcia, while Robson started to look like her old self despite losing 6-4, 6-4 to Russia's Evgeniya Rodina

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The Independent Online

On the face of it Heather Watson had more to celebrate than Laura Robson, but Britain’s two best women players could both draw satisfaction from their first-round performances here.

Watson showed all her battling qualities to save three match points before beating France’s Caroline Garcia  1-6, 6-3, 8-6, while Robson, playing only her second match after a 17-month absence because of a wrist injury, started to look like her old self despite losing 6-4, 6-4 to Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina.

Watson, who is now the only British woman left in the women’s singles, faced a one-set shoot-out against Garcia after their match had been called off the previous evening at the end of the second set because of bad light.

Garcia, who has one of the best serves in the women’s game and hits big ground strokes, loves to go for her shots. However, despite her 32 winners in the match the world No 33 also made 38 unforced errors. Watson, the world No 59, was more consistent, though she had to show great resolve when she served at 4-5 in the decider.

The Briton faced three match points in that game but Garcia made forehand errors on the first two and failed to return a serve on the third. Watson held for 5-5 and broke to love in the following game, though the drama was not over as Garcia broke back to level at 6-6. Watson broke again in the next game and at 7-6 went 40-0 up. Despite double-faulting on the next point the 23-year-old from Guernsey secured victory when Garcia hit a return long.

“I needed to be pumped up because I started the match so flat yesterday,” Watson said. “I needed to make sure I had a good start. That’s why I came on the court already sweating, very motivated.”

How had she coped when facing those three match points? “I only thought for a second that it maybe wasn’t meant to be this time. But I said, ‘No matter what, if she wants this match, she’s going to have to win it. I’m not going to give it to her’. I just stuck in there.”

On Court One on Wednesday, Watson will face Daniela Hantuchova, a former world No 5 and Wimbledon quarter-finalist, though the 32-year-old Slovakian is now ranked 72. The winner is likely to face Serena Williams in the third round but Watson insisted: “All I’m thinking about is my next match. Daniela Hantuchova’s been at the top of the game and plays very well on grass, so it definitely won’t be easy.”

A dejected Laura Robson walks off after her 6-4, 6-4 defeat to Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina (PA)

Robson needed a wild card to play here because she does not even have a world ranking at the moment. The former Wimbledon junior champion won only one game when she made her comeback in the qualifying tournament at Eastbourne, but this was a much improved performance.

Although she made plenty of errors, including 10 double faults, Robson played her customary attacking game, using her big serve and bold ground strokes. The former Wimbledon junior champion hit 34 winners to Rodina’s 12.

“Compared to the match I played last week, it was infinitely better,” Robson said. “There were so many positives from today that I can go back and work on.”

Robson said her wrist had been “totally fine” and had not given her any pain at all. In the coming weeks she plans to play in a number of smaller tournaments in North America before using a protected world ranking to get into the US Open.

“I’m pretty confident that I have the ability to get back to where I was, if not higher,” the former world No 27 said. “It’s going to be a long process to get there, but I’m very excited that I have another chance to do it.”