MIAMI, FL, USA - Last year was a breakthrough year for British teenager Heather Watson, her ground game, athleticism and determination helping push her into her first three WTA quarterfinals and the Top 100. It has not been an ideal start to 2012, an ankle injury derailing her rise, but at the Sony Ericsson Open on Tuesday afternoon she really reminded everyone of her talents.
The 19-year-old from Guernsey made it all the way up to No.87 last September, but injured her ankle at the end of the off-season and has slipped to No.129 as of this week after going 0-4 in her first four WTA events of the season.
"My ankle had me out for a long time after the training block, which I trained so hard for," Watson said. "It pushed me back, both mentally and physically, and I also came back sooner than I should have because I wanted to play matches. I was being very cautious with my movement, and that's one of my strengths."
With her ankle okay now, Watson came into the Sony Ericsson Open with far better chances and put not just her movement on display on Tuesday, but also her will to win - she rallied from 5-0 down in the third set, including saving two match points down 5-4, 40-15, to finally beat Sorana Cirstea, 63 36 76(4).
"She played so well to get 5-0 up. I just wanted to keep going for it, keep fighting every single point," Watson told reporters afterwards. "She had a few match points there, and especially on the second match point she really had me on the ropes, but I tried to stay calm and it worked out in my favor.
"I had people supporting me everywhere, from my coach and my dad, my mother all the way at the top of the bleachers, Judy out there too... they were all scattered everywhere and they helped me find the strength to push through."
Watson's win over the No.48-ranked Cirstea was her second and equal-best Top 50 win (she beat a No.48-ranked Aleksandra Wozniak in 2010 too).
Next up for Watson is No.27 seed Lucie Safarova. "I've never played her before, well in doubles yes," Watson said. "She's a great player but I'm ready."
Watson is Britain's No.4 player, behind No.61 Elena Baltacha, No.74 Anne Keothavong and No.120 Laura Robson. Baltacha was also in action Tuesday, though she came out on the losing end to Zhang Shuai, 67(5) 63 62.