OSAKA, Japan - Heather Watson has become the first Brit in 24 years to win a WTA title, capturing the HP Open in Osaka on Sunday afternoon - and doing so in very dramatic fashion, just edging Chinese Taipei's Chang Kai-Chen.
In a final between two players who had never been past the quarterfinals of a WTA tournament beforehand, and who were both unseeded in the draw, too, Watson and Chang were both in very new and unexpected situations.
And both players showed hesitation at big moments in the match, missing some very big opportunities: Chang served for the first set at 5-4 but lost the set; Watson had match point at 5-3 in the second set but lost the set; and Chang led 5-3 in the third set, with four match points at 5-4, but lost that lead.
It seemed only fitting that the marathon would end in a third set tie-break.
While Chang had won third set tie-breaks in both of her previous rounds, against No.8 seed Laura Robson and No.1 seed Sam Stosur, it was not to be this time, as Watson got her nose in front early with a 3-1 lead and never looked back to win, 75 57 76(4), after a grueling three hours and 11 minutes.
The match was so close, both players won the exact same amount of points: 129. But it was Watson who came through at the most important of times, and she is now the first Brit to win a WTA title since Sara Gomer at Aptos in 1988.
"I was in the changing room afterwards, changing my clothes, and I thought to myself, 'Did I really win?' So it's just starting to settle in," Watson said. "I've worked so hard for this moment my whole career - that's why I practiced so hard, ran all those miles and lifted all those weights, for moments like this.
"Britain has been breaking quite a few records recently, so I'm happy I could break another one today. I'm proud to do this for my country."
Watson was also very happy to have recovered from the missed match point in the second set, on which she actually hit the dreaded double fault.
"She's an amazing returner, so I wanted to go for it," Watson said. "What I've learned from my coaches is to go for it and not hope they miss - as you get better and play the top girls, you've got to go for it because they won't give it to you. So I went for it and I don't regret it - though if I lost the match I probably would have regretted it. But I ended up winning the match, so I'll get over it!"
And on the four match points against her? "I was already thinking about how I was going to cry in the locker room!" she joked. "But after I saved the first one, I just took it point by point. I'm really proud of myself for getting through that."
Watson also talked about her countrywoman and contemporary, Robson, who just a few weeks earlier had become the first Brit to make a WTA final in 22 years - not since Jo Durie at Newport in 1990 had even that happened.
"Laura and I have come through the rankings together - juniors and seniors - and we're both very competitive, so when we see the other doing well, it pushes us. Knowing Laura did so well in China a few weeks ago definitely motivated me this week. But I think it's great we're really good friends off the court as well."
Watson took the court again afterwards for the doubles final, as one half of the No.4 seeds, alongside Kimiko Date-Krumm - but this one wasn't to be, as they fell to No.1 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears in 65 minutes, 61 64. Kops-Jones and Spears captured their fourth WTA doubles title of a breakthrough year - and with two in previous years, they now have six total.