Briton Heather Watson had been on a disappointing run of form recently. That is until the British #2 arrived in Tianjin. In fact, successes had been few and far between all year for Watson. An ITF title early in the year in Fukuoka, Japan was followed by a number of early losses in other events. Entering qualifying at events or main draws at others, the Briton had struggled to move forward. Even the grass-court season did not help Watson, with a quarterfinal showing in Surbiton her best result on home turf.
August saw the Brit compete during the North American hard-court swing. After a poor showing in Toronto, where she crashed out at the hands of Iga Swiatek in the final round of qualifying, Watson rediscovered her form in Vancouver. Without dropping a set Watson claimed her second ITF title of the year, beating Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain in the final.
Unfortunately, she did not manage to carry that form into the final Grand Slam of the year, with Watson losing in the first round of qualifying in New York. However, back at ITF-level Watson impressed in making the semifinals in New Haven. However, that was as good as it got for Watson in September as she failed to make the main draw in either Wuhan or Beijing.
But Watson has managed to put the disappointment of those defeats behind her at the WTA International-level Tianjin Open in fine fashion. After dispatching Kateryna Bondarenko in the first round, Watson claimed her best win of the season by ranking when she hammered second seed Wang Qiang, recently a quarterfinalist at the US Open, 6-3 6-0.
She then received a stern examination in the quarterfinals at the hands of Magda Linette, who had beaten her handily in the final round of qualifying at the China Open in Beijing. But in Tianjin, it was Watson who came out on top. Although Linette had her moments, taking Watson the distance in an extremely tight match, Watson held her nerve in the vital moments to emerge a deserved 7-5 6-7 7-6 winner.
That win set up a semifinal clash with Veronika Kudermetova. The Russian is unseeded, but should not be taken lightly, particularly after she demolished third seed Dayana Yastremska in the last eight for the loss of only three games. But Watson will surely be full of belief and with the other semifinal set to be contested between the also unseeded Rebecca Peterson and Ons Jabeur, there is a real sense that the title in Tianjin is up for grabs. Watson might just be the one to claim it.
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