Surprising Watson Undefeated At Battle Of The Brits

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

British No. 2 Heather Watson is coming out of a mid-career slump just at the right time. During the week-long Battle Of The Brits at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton – her first competition since the start of the pandemic – not only has the 50th-ranked Watson won each of her three singles matches, she’s shown improvement with each victory.

Thursday afternoon on Centre Court against 17-year-old British future hope Emma Raducanu, Watson gave her best performance of the week with a 6-2, 6-4 victory that lasted one hour and 17 minutes and was worth two points for the Union Jacks in this mixed team exhibition. She was excellent in effectively playing all the right angles and by defusing Raducanu’s serve and ground strokes.

Watson was pleased with the match-quality of her victory against Raducanu, who came into the match unbeaten in her two previous singles matches which included wins over Progress Tour champion Katie Boulter and runner up Jodie Burrage.

“It was a great day for me today,” said Watson, who hit 27 winners and made just nine unforced errors. “I had been saying after each of my previous matches that I’m getting better and getting better each match but today was a big jump. I definitely played some really good tennis.”

Indeed, Watson won points on 81 percent of her first serves and backed it up by winning 50 percent of her second-serve points. She also broke Raducanu four times in eight attempts. Meanwhile, Watson’s aggressive play was upsetting to Raducanu, who committed 15 unforced errors and managed just one service break.

“This is my first week of playing matches since the pandemic began,” said Watson, who a week before the shutdown of pro tennis won her fourth career title at Acapulco. “It’s getting that match practice in and I’m just getting used to the stress of playing a match and I think I’m just dealing with it better and I’m feeling great.”

Watson gave props to the esprit de corps of her Union Jacks teammates. “Really happy I got put with all the different characters,” she said. “We’re definitely beating the Bulldogs in team spirit, that’s for sure. I love playing in front of a crowd usually and just having them so loud and behind me, it really does give me that extra push.”

Later on, Watson teamed with Battle Of The Brits organizer Jamie Murray for a big 6-4, 6-4 mixed doubles win over Raducanu and Joe Salisbury. Watson’s confidence and Murray’s solid serving made for a potent one-two punch and the victory was worth three points for the Union Jacks who narrowed what began the day as a 17-point deficit against the British Bulldogs to just six points with 17 points up for grabs on Friday. First team to 60 wins the team championship.

After their triumph, Murray said during a post-match interview: “Good day for the Jacks. Heather [was the] player of the day I think, taking out Emma, great performance earlier, waiting around all day and played a great match in the mixed there. Starting to make a bit of a match of it, which is nice because the scoreboard wasn’t looking too pretty for us after yesterday.”

After Wednesday, the British Bulldogs enjoyed a commanding 29-12 lead. However, with the success that the Union Jacks displayed on Thursday, which also included wins by Burrage, Jan Choinski and Anton Matusevich in singles, Andy Murray and Lloyd Glasspool in men’s doubles, and Olivia Nicholls and Alicia Barnett in women’s doubles, they now trail just 31-25.

“The Jacks are Back,” was the rally cry by Union Jacks co-coach Judy Murray by the end of the day. “I think our team are really starting to get it together now and this was a very satisfying day for us and we have narrowed that gap so we’re in with a shout again.”

Osaka takes wild card into Western & Southern Open

On Thursday, former World No. 1 Naomi Osaka accepted a wild card into the Western & Southern Open, which takes place this year in New York City (qualifying starts Aug. 20, main draw begins Aug. 22) and is a major tune-up for the US Open. Currently ranked No. 10, Osaka said she would compete in the Grand Slam event, too. Both will be played this year at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. The US Open runs from Aug. 31-Sept. 13.

Osaka is one of four past Grand Slam champions who received main draw wild cards for the Western & Southern Open, a WTA Premier 5 tournament. Others were: seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, ranked No 67; three-time US Open champion and unranked Kim Clijsters, and 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens, who is ranked 37th. Also, No. 124 and Cincinnati native Caty McNally was awarded a wild card.

What they’re saying

After his doubles win with Lloyd Glasspool in The Battle Of The Brits on Thursday, Andy Murray said in a post-match interview that he’s confident the U.S. Tennis Association will provide for safe conditions for the players upon arrival at the US Open. His only concern surrounds international travel. “The Ash Barty withdrawal, I think we will see it quite a bit.”

More Murray: “I have heard some of the top male players aren’t going to play. I would expect that would be the case.

“It’s everyone’s personal decision. If they don’t feel safe, and don’t feel comfortable, traveling and going there and putting themselves and their team at an increased risk, then it’s completely understandable. 

“All of the players will have some reservations and it’s whether or not you feel comfortable taking that risk.”

Behind The Racquet – Stefanos Tsitsipas

World No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas is the latest to pen a first-person essay for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet, which posted Among the takeaways from the always colorful, 21-year-old rising Greek star:

“I have hobbies that keep me interested in different aspects of life. These activities keep me creative and are reflected in my tennis game. Sometimes, I post things on my social media that not many people understand. These posts express my inner creativity. I put Stefanos’ twist on life. I am philosophical, I come from a country with a history of philosophy and I don’t know if I was Pythagoras or Socrates in my previous life, but I wouldn’t mind be either one.”

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“In 2018, I broke into the Top 15 and was seeded in Grand Slams. That’s when I understood my potential. In the beginning, I traveled with only my dad. Now, I travel with my dad, mom, and three siblings. I’m the main source of income for my family. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I have hobbies that keep me interested in different aspects of life. These activities keep me creative and are reflected in my tennis game. Sometimes, I post things on my social media that not many people understand. These posts express my inner creativity. I put Stefanos’ twist on life. I am philosophical, I come from a country with a history of philosophy and I don’t know if I was Pythagoras or Socrates in my previous life, but I wouldn’t mind being either one. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ There was a time when I wasn’t doing well. I started to play futures and was doubting myself. I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to play professional tennis. My country was on the verge of bankruptcy. The entire population was suffering. My father’s siblings were unemployed and couldn’t feed their families. People looked at me like I was the one ruling the country and they thought I was part of the problem. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I felt isolated. I wasn’t home to see what was going on because I was traveling. I needed support. My mental coach shared his wisdom and inspired me. Then I said to myself, ‘You’ve dedicated your entire life to tennis, you can’t just give up. You’ve got to keep going.’ I play tennis to prove that my country has a great history and can achieve success. Tennis is a very introverted sport and we face everything alone. We have a team that follows us all over the world but I have spent countless sleepless nights on my own. All the traveling and competing causes a lot of stress and I grew very lonely.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I was an introverted child and didn’t have many friends. When I started playing on tour, I thought I would develop friendships but it turned out to be the opposite. Most players keep to themselves. I feel like players don’t want to become friends because they think someone will grab a secret from you to beat you. I guess they’re just too serious about the whole thing. Friends would make traveling less lonely.⁣⁣” @stefanostsitsipas98 #BTR

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Passing shots

Randy Walker, tennis writer and publisher: “With the anticipation now of strong entries into the 2020 US Open (based on the @CincyTennis entries), I wonder if Andy Murray, ranked No. 129, will need a wild card? The top 120 players gain entry so it might be close….”

What they’re sharing on social media

Christopher Clarey / An Italian Open without fans

Billie Jean King / So proud …

Petra Kvitova / When the color of the sky matches the court