Australian Open 2021: Heather Watson battles past Kristyna Pliskova to reach second round

The British No 2 endured a two-week hard quarantine ahead of the first grand slam of the year in Melbourne

Eleanor Crooks
Tuesday 09 February 2021 07:39
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<p>Heather Watson plays a backhand in her first round match against Kristyna Pliskova</p>

Heather Watson plays a backhand in her first round match against Kristyna Pliskova

Heather Watson ground out a victory over Kristyna Pliskova to move into the second round of the Australian Open with a helping hand from her mental strength gained after a challenging two weeks of hard quarantine.

The British number two had shared a plane with someone who was subsequently found to have contracted Covid-19, which meant she was one of 72 players forced to stay inside their hotel rooms for 14 days.

Watson described it as the worst preparation she has ever had for a grand slam tournament but she was impressively sharp in a 7-6 (4) 7-6 (3) victory over Czech Pliskova, who she also beat at the same stage last year.

"It made the victory today sweeter because we'd been through a lot the last few weeks," said Watson.

READ MORE: Australian Open: Novak Djokovic sears into second round alongside Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev

"It was really tough mentally I would say the most. Physically I felt like I did a pretty good job in hard quarantine of working out pretty much every day and trying to keep up my fitness with what I could do. I think today I could see it on my coach's face as well, he was extra proud.

"I'm really pleased with how I played the tie-breaks. I thought I stepped up my game when I needed to and played some of my best tennis in the big moments."

Watson admitted the thought of potentially having to endure another quarantine has put her off enjoying too many of the freedoms now available to her, with fresh air and space the luxuries she is no longer taking for granted.

Heather Watson reacts after a point

Her prime focus, though, is on looking after her body ahead of a second-round clash with either 21st seed Anett Kontaveit or Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Watson said: "I would say I felt my body change a bit (in quarantine). When you're fit and strong, your body just feels hard. It just wasn't as hard as usual. I definitely lost some (fitness), but that's expected. Mentally I felt super strong because I'd got through it.

"My body's definitely sore. I've had an ice bath the last few days. I'm taking care of my body very carefully because actually four days ago my left leg went into spasm and I couldn't finish practising.

READ MORE: Heather Watson says ‘savage’ border control programmes prepared her for Australian Open quarantine

"I was really worried about if I was going to be able to play my first round here. I don't get injured, so it was a surprise. Expected again with what we've been through. I tried to manage that as best as possible. Fortunately it healed very quickly.

"Yesterday is the first day of practice where I felt like my game was starting to come back together. Having a Tuesday start was big, so I got lucky there."

PA

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