British #3 is something that will be hard to hear/read for Guernsey’s Heather Watson (ranked #93). Given the set-back of a 2018 season that’s past, the 26-year-old recently lost her British #2 status. World #100 Katie Boulter temporarily claimed this crown, sending out a message to Watson that she needs to up her game in 2019.
Wrestling Back British #2 Status from Katie Boulter is a Confidence Boost
A run to the quarterfinals in a Houston WTA event, her season finale, saw Watson reclaim British number 2 status. This is a significant tournament, as it also ensures that Heather Watson finishes the season inside the top 100. However, she is nervously looking over her shoulder.
Heather Watson: the Ambassador
The Guernsey born star has just taken on an ambassador role for British charity Give It Your Max. Watson seems inspired by her future involvement in promoting tennis opportunities for upwards of 120,000 state school children. She will be keen to support this initiative by performing again on court, setting an example.
Inconsistency Overshadows Heather Watson’s Undoubted Talent
2017 represents for Watson the season of injuries. She withdrew from the Rogers Cup due to a shoulder problem. However, 2018 posed no real issues on that front. Lack of concentration saw Watson’s errors spike. Like Johanna Konta in the French Open, Watson succumbed to Yulia Putintseva in the 1st round of the Australian Open. Her confidence suffered ever since, concentration lapses at key moments. Confidence is something that always seemed to be there in 2015, when she reached #38 in the world. Those days seem like a mountain climb away now.
An eight match losing streak that ended in Nuremburg with a victory over Bondarenko represents a particular season low. This is alongside three rubber losses (including doubles), against Japan in a crucial Fed Cup World Group elimination match.
Watson Showed Signs of Improvement Towards End of Season
Watson failed at the first round stage in the US Open and has never made it beyond that stage. That said, she still won three qualifying matches. This incorporates a victory over Fed Cup spot rival Katie Swann. A drop to ITF/Challenger level resulted in more match-time and increased fitness. Whilst not spectacular, Watson’s last tournament form gives hope for a brighter start to 2019.
Heather Watson reached the semi-final stage in Quebec in September. She eventually lost out to a resurgent Pauline Parmentier at the semifinal stage.
A run to the final in a Vancouver ITF event in August saw glimpses of the Heather Watson of old. However, it was a disappointing loss to Misaki Doi in the final. A 1-5 grass court season represented a big low, but Watson is slowly putting that behind her.
It’s always the way, Watson seems to be building form just as the curtain comes down on another season.
Watson Fighting to Retain Fed Cup Spot
The Fed Cup is coming home, for Brits anyway. The 6th-9th February 2019 sees the Avon town of Bath hosting World Group II matches. It’s the first time in 26 years that British players will have the opportunity to impress in front of a home crowd.
Heather Watson has been considered a mainstay on the GB side for so long. However, now the likes of Katie Boulter, Harriet Dart, Gabriella Taylor, and Katie Swann will all fancy their chances of chasing Watson down. The competition to team up with Konta in the doubles is likely to be fierce.
Improved Slam Showing is a 2019 must for Heather Watson
There’s not a great deal of time to find your form early season, before the 1st Slam, the Australian Open. Watson’s joint career best Slam achievement (3rd round) came in Melbourne (as well as Wimbledon in 2013). Watson at least needs to equal this personal best, to send out a message her 2015 form is not far away.
A good Melbourne performance should remove doubt from coach Anne Keothavong’s mind about Watson’s worthiness for the Fed Cup. Given her impressive Fed Cup singles record (20/29), it’d be harsh to say that Heather Watson hasn’t earned a trip to Bath. This could then pave the way for 2019 that mirrors or betters her 2015 form. Britain’s #2 is on the cusp of a make or break season, it seems.