Watson Flies The Flag, Sharapova Cruises
Published May 29, 2012 12:00
PARIS, France - Across the water there was a nation needing a win, and a win they got - Heather Watson became the lone Brit into the second round of the French Open on Tuesday, as the first round of the clay court Slam wrapped up.
Playing six-time WTA finalist Elena Vesnina, Watson was more aggressive and steadier in the match too, hitting more winners (18 to 14) and far less unforced errors (11 to 23). She served well too, five aces to zero double faults.
Not bad for a player who had to battle through three rounds of qualifying.
"I haven't had the best year so far, then suddenly in Miami I started to play a lot better, and I've just carried on working hard," Watson said. "I knew I had a lot of points to defend here but I didn't want to focus on that, I just wanted to take each round at a time, and I have, and I've ended up playing really well.
"I've been working on my serve quite a lot. I've been working on my game to become a lot more aggressive, because I have the good defensive skills and I can move well, but I want to also use it to be aggressive. So we've worked on my serve, trying to get a lot more power and accuracy on it. It's working."
Next up for Watson is No.25 seed Julia Goerges, who won a hard-hitting match with recent Madrid semifinalist Lucie Hradecka, 76(1) 64. The thought of an upset isn't out of the question for Watson, who very nearly pulled off a huge one at last year's US Open against Maria Sharapova in the first round.
"I really enjoyed that match. It made me get a feel for these top players and what they're like," Watson said. "I think the lower-ranked players get quite intimidated and lose quite a few matches to them just on mental approach. But after playing that match, it made me see she's only human. These top players, everybody makes mistakes. In this sport you never know who's going to win."
Speaking of Sharapova, the No.2-seeded Russian dropped some knowledge in her first round against Alexandra Cadantu, winning in 48 minutes, 60 60.
"I'm really happy with the way my preparation has been coming into this tournament. I feel like with every year I've improved and enjoy it much more," Sharapova said after the match. "Every year I learn a lot more about the game and point construction. I feel like I'm moving a lot better than I did years previously, which has helped me a lot in the recovery process within the point.
"All of that gives me a lot of confidence for this tournament."
Sharapova's win over Cadantu was her 30th of the season - this is the fastest the 25-year-old has ever got to 30 match wins on a season in her career.
"It's been a solid year. I started the year off on a really good note. I was healthy. I had a pretty good off-season, I would say. I was practicing well. It hasn't actually been as long as I've wanted it to be because of the ankle, but I started off with really good, high energy. I was really positive, and it's paying off."
Sharapova's projected semifinal opponent, No.4 seed Petra Kvitova, had a 61 62 win over Australian Ashleigh Barty - Kvitova was solid, with 16 winners to 15 unforced errors, but Barty went wild with three winners to 26 unforced.
Kvitova has recovered from a stomach injury from a few weeks ago. "After Rome I had some days off, which helped a lot," the Wimbledon champion said. "I've just been practicing before the French Open and I'm feeling very well."
"I think Kimiko is an example for everybody. She works a lot, respects the other players and is a really fantastic athlete," Schiavone said of the Japanese. "I think we have many things to learn from her. She has a great career.
"Maybe on clay I have a better chance than her - she plays much better on fast surfaces. But it was a great match and it's great to play against her."