EASTBOURNE, England - Britain’s Heather Watson dealt the first big upset of the Aegon International, taking down defending champion Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets.
Watson, a No.126-ranked wildcard, broke the No.4 seed four times but needed four match points to wrap up the hour and 43 minute encounter and win 7-5, 6-4.
“I’m so grateful for everyone who came out and supported today,” Watson grinned after the match. “The atmosphere was incredible and I was getting goosebumps at the end there.
“It’s no secret that I got a little nervous, but I’m very pleased that I got through it in that last game.”
Watson’s trademark mix of aggression and counterpunching gave Cibulkova plenty of trouble in the opening set as the Brit led by a break twice. But Cibulkova employed her big forehand to break straight back both times to keep them level.
The Brit finally broke through in the final game, avoiding a tiebreak and wrapping up the set 7-5.
After going up another break in the second set, Watson brought up a match point at 5-3 but Cibulkova batted it away, dodging another two in the next game as she broke a nervy Watson.
But much to the delight of the Eastbourne crowd, Watson took the match on the fourth time of asking, wrapping up the upset after one hour and 43 minutes on court.
The victory is only Watson’s second ever over a Top 10 player, and her time winning back-to-back WTA matches since Monterrey in April.
“Obviously Dominika is an amazing player, and she won this tournament last year,” Watson said. “She’s just a hard worker and a fighter, so I knew it was never going to be easy. And it definitely wasn’t. But I thought I played really well today. I really got the serve going. “
Watson will take on the winner between Elise Mertens and No.14 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the next round for a spot in the Eastbourne quarterfinals.