TIANJIN, China – Heather Watson produced her best victory since 2017 to progress to the quarterfinals of the Tianjin Open at the expense of No.2 seed Wang Qiang, 6-3, 6-0 in 78 minutes.
The Briton had not won a hard court match on the WTA Tour in over a year coming into this week, but stormed to a comfortable victory against the WTA World No.22 and will now face Magda Linette in her first WTA Tour last-eight encounter in little over a year.
After being made to made to fight hard for her opening service games, the WTA World No.125, whose last Top 30 win came at Wimbledon 2017 against Anastasija Sevastova, found her rhythm and dominated an opponent who had hoped for success on her hometown court.
With only two main draw victories in 2019, the early games were essential for Watson to gather confidence, with two hard-fought service holds giving her a base of confidence to build from. These games spanned 28 points, during which she successfully faced down five break opportunities for her opponent.
Sandwiching these games, meanwhile, Watson took the ascendancy by breaking the Wang serve. The pressure she exerted with her length was telling as she grabbed the early lead.
Although her opponent was briefly able to rally, converting her only break point of eight chances throughout the encounter, Watson took command of the match after sending up a lob that Wang was unable to return when it seemed probable matters were going to be squared. Instead, Watson regained her accuracy and forged another break.
The variety of the lower-ranked player was excellent. Dropshots were judiciously thrown in, while her shot selection was largely immaculate. This was best exemplified with the rally that sealed the opening set as she hit the lines on multiple occasions before her opponent succumbed to the pressure by netting.
There was no relent in Watson’s excellence at the start of the second set as she quickly established a 0-40 lead on the Wang serve. Although two of these points were saved by the Chinese, the third was taken.
It was evident, thereafter, that Watson’s self-belief grew exponentially and as the set progressed, she hit the ball increasingly decisively, with her winner count spiralling.
Conversely, Wang was failing to produce her best level. A wasteful overhead was compounded by a double fault and an unforced error was she fell 3-0 behind, at which point she seemed to lose the belief that the situation could be salvaged.
Watson took full advantage, completing the bagel set with an assured display of tennis to send her into the last eight, where she will face Linette, the player who eliminated her from Beijing qualifying just a fortnight ago.