A year after coming within a whisker of beating Serena Williams on Centre Court, Heather Watson has exited in the first round to Annika Beck following a rollercoaster three set match.
Over two days of topsy turvy tennis, Watson went down 6-3, 0-6, 12-10 to the German ranked 12 places above her after surrendering three match points at 10-9 up in the decider.
The British No2 resumed on Court 12 a break down in the deciding third set after the pair had been stopped by the rain on Wednesday evening.
Beck, who had the momentum, was being treated after falling in slippery conditions when play was stopped. Watson had won the first set easily but Beck, who plays a similar game to the Guernsey-born player, had come roaring back to take the second to love.
She appeared to have picked up where she left off, roaring into a 3-0 lead and making it nine straight games in a row without reply. But in a nervy, tiring back and forth Watson regained a toe hold by clawing back one break with a deft drop shot.
Beck targeted Watson’s forehand, which is usually among her most potent weapons but was ragged here, while both players struggled to close out winning situations.
After going 4-1 down in the deciding set, the world No55 was warned by the umpire for racket abuse after sitting down and smashing it into the Wimbledon turf. Yet it seemed to unlock something in Watson, who began seeing the ball better and making her shots, putting away a string of overheads. As she came back to 4-4, the crowd became more voluble.
The decider settled into a calmer period, each now easily winning their service games before Watson should have seized it at 10-9, handed three match points.
Now it was Beck’s turn to show some guts, saving the second with a backhand pass and the third on her second serve with a tremendous forehand that just caught the line.
After almost three hours of tennis, the pendulum swung again. Missing such a fine chance to win the match, with the cheers drifting over Court Two where Dan Evans had made it into the third round, seemed to take the wind out of Watson’s sails.
Having clawed her way back into the match and then made it to the brink of victory, a hugely frustrated Watson served a double fault and then sent a tame forehand into the net to give her German opponent the chance to serve for the match.
This time, she didn’t pass up the opportunity and finally sealed victory more than 26 hours after the clash had begun when a disappointed Watson sent a backhand long.
Over the see-saw match, Watson played the more aggressive tennis but ultimately the unforced error count – 64 to 27 – told the story. But there would be no Centre Court heroics this year, while Beck has already equalled her best ever Wimbledon performance by making it to the second round.
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