Heather Watson has today called time on a superb year that ended on a sensational high after .
The 20-year old from Guernsey yesterday won the Osaka Open title in Japan after beating Chang Kai-Chen 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 in the final. In doing so, Watson, playing in her first tour level final, became the first British female to win a WTA title since Sara Gomer in 1988.
Indeed, the youngster became only the second British female to reach a WTA final since Jo Durie in 1990 – the other being her great friend Laura Robson some three weeks ago.
Watson wasn’t done eclipsing Robson there, either. In winning the title, she picked up 280 ranking points, enough to lift her 21 places up to 50th in the World Rankings, back to British number one and two places above Robson, who herself rose four places after reaching the quarter finals in Osaka.
Winning the Osaka Open – worth £23,000 – is a huge achievement for Watson, even if there were only 8 top 50 players competing. It shows just how far the former US Open junior champion has come over the last twelve months, having ended 2011 with a WTA ranking of 92.
She has improved her game no end. Her shot selection is much better and more mature, whilst she is also able to put more power through ground strokes that frequently find the lines.
On top of that, her movement, which always was good, is getting better and better. With a “never say die” attitude, Watson refuses to ever give up in any single point, battling hard to get the ball back in court in case her opponent misses one more shot, and that attitude alone will win her plenty of points per match (Lleyton Hewitt, indeed, has made a career out of it).
Watson’s improvement, however, doesn’t come as a surprise. Having moved to the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida at the age of 12, she has put in hours of tireless work and is determined to make the most of her ability.
That hard work is clearly beginning to pay off. Her rise up the world rankings, particularly over the last few months, has been meteoric, and will give her automatic qualification to the Australian Open in January.
The 20-year old isn’t just excelling in singles tournaments, either. She has two WTA doubles titles to her name, both with partner Marina Erakovic, whilst she also finished as a losing finalist with home favourite Kimiko Date-Krumm in Osaka yesterday, just hours after victory in the singles final.
Such form has seen Watson rise to a world ranking of No.52 in doubles and shows her willingness to play the game and improve aspects of her performance which are more prominent in doubles tennis, such as volleying.
After winning is Osaka, Watson brought her overall year record to 35 wins, 25 losses in singles and has achieved her goal of reaching the World top 50 and, as she explained to BBC Radio 5 Live after her success yesterday, her focus and attentions will now turn to what promises to be an exciting and successful 2013 season.
The British No1. said: “This is my last tournament of the year. I don’t think I could have ended it any better.”
“Being in the top 50 was a real goal for me and it will push me to make harder goals for myself. I’m excited to have a break but I am looking forward to working hard again because it motivates me to achieve more.”
“I’ve worked so hard for this moment my whole career. That’s why I practised so hard, ran all those miles and lifted all those weights, for moments like this.”
For British tennis fans, success has been infrequent and rare. What is for sure is that it won’t be 24 years before a GB female next wins a WTA title. Roll on 2013…