ACAPULCO, Mexico -- Heather Watson’s quest for her first WTA singles title since 2016 continues at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC, as the No.7 seed from Great Britain moved into Saturday’s final after a 6-4, 7-6(8) win over 18-year-old qualifier Wang Xiyu of China.
World No.69 Watson needed an hour and 46 minutes to quell the 127th-ranked left-hander and advance to the fifth WTA singles final of her career. The British No.2 is one win away from claiming her fourth WTA singles title, to go with trophies from 2012 Osaka, 2015 Hobart, and 2016 Monterrey. It is her second final in five months, having reached the final at Tianjin last autumn.
"I felt like the last six to eight months, I’ve been playing really good tennis," Watson told the media, following her win. "I’m happy with my game, I’m happy with my life, and everything just seems to be falling into place.
"The last few years, I’ve been working really hard and making some changes, so I think now I’m being rewarded for it. I feel really confident, happy, and excited for tomorrow’s final."
Watson becomes the first player from Great Britain to reach the women's singles final at Acapulco. She did so by converting all four of her break points in her semifinal win over Wang, earning exactly two-thirds of points (20 of 30) off of the Chinese player's second service.
In the final, Watson will face a first-time finalist: either 17-year-old qualifier Leylah Fernandez of Canada or the new Mexican heroine, 22-year-old wildcard Renata Zarazua. Both Fernandez and Zarazua reached their first WTA quarterfinal and semifinal this week.
"The girl I played today was 18, so everybody’s young now!" Watson laughed. "I’ve played Leylah a couple of times, both times were very tough. She’s very talented, a very good competitor.
"Renata, I’ve never played before, in doubles or singles. But obviously I’ve been following her matches here, and she’s someone who’s had a great tournament. I think whoever I play will be extremely tough. Whether I play Renata tomorrow or not, I’ll probably play her in a few weeks in Fed Cup. "
Five of the first seven games went to the returner, as both players were stepping in to flummox the serving player into errors. The run of breaks ended with Watson up a break at 4-3, after Wang dropped a second consecutive service game with a double fault on break point.
The opening frame ended with improved consistency off the ground as Watson and Wang settled into the match, finding the corners with ease. However, Wang was never able to claw back the break advantage that Watson held, and the Brit collected a one-set lead after a forehand by Wang found the net on the No.7 seed’s first set point.
Wonderful world of Watson 🥳@HeatherWatson staves off a valiant effort from 18-year-old qualifier Wang Xiyu 6-4 7-6(6) to become the first 🇬🇧 to reach the Acapulco final.#AMT2020 pic.twitter.com/tZl9AUZ9kE— WTA (@WTA) February 28, 2020
In the first game of the second set, Wang was once again let down by a double fault on break point, and she dropped serve at love to hand a break to Watson right away. Nevertheless, the young Chinese player kept fighting in her first-ever WTA semifinal, and her power game started to click as she broke back for 2-2.
Wang’s sturdy groundstrokes hung around for the rest of the set, but Watson was up for the challenge and withstood everything the powerful teenager threw at her. Solid serving by Wang gave her 5-4 and 6-5 leads in the set, but Watson did not falter, responding with love holds each of those times and pushing the set into a decisive tiebreak.
A 3-1 Watson lead in the breaker was erased by thunderous hitting by Wang, as the teen zipped to 4-3. But a double fault by the qualifier pulled Watson level again at 4-4, and the Brit clocked a crosscourt backhand winner at the end of a rally two points later, giving herself a 6-4 lead and double match point.
Two Wang forehand winners, though, fended off each of those chances, and the duo changed ends again at 6-6. But on the next point, Wang fired an extremely ill-timed double fault -- her 10th of the match. At 7-6, the third match point was the charm for Watson, as Wang fired a service return long to put the 7th-seeded Brit back into another WTA singles final.