Yesterday at the Citi Open I caught the end of Heather Watson’s three-set victory over Alexandra Mueller in the first round. It was a phenomenal match in the midday sun that had the jam-packed crowd on Match Court 2 absolutely riveted.
As Watson dug deep to pull the match out in the third, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3, I was reminded of what a fun game she has. She moves so well, she can hit on-the-run winners from practically anywhere on court, and she has a lot more power than her size suggests that she should.
After watching Watson struggle through this year with a bout of mono and seemingly a case of the burn-outs, it was great to see her grit out a high-quality match, even if it was one on a small court that she was the heavy favorite in. If you believe in such a thing, it was definitely a step in the right direction.
I was able to sit down one-on-one with “Hev” after the match, and it was the most fun I’ve had in an interview in a while. She was absolutely lovely–and this time I am 100% sure I wasn’t just being fooled by the British accent. (Trust me, I’ve been fooled before, and I will be fooled again.)
I have a tendency to, perhaps, over-like players (not sure if that makes sense…) after talking with them, but with Watson I really do believe that my impression of her was correct. Our brief conversation–the first time I’ve ever talked with her–felt like catching up with an old friend.
We sat outside for the interview–because she was too cold inside in the air-conditioning–and laughed our way through a conversation that meandered through topics such as her health, her coaching changes, her decision to play the grass season, and her Andy Murray predictions.
Here are the highlights from the interview, amazing accent and overall loveliness not included:
On how she was feeling before, during, and after the match:
It was a tough match. I went straight to the ice bath to recover and stretch, and I’m getting some food in now and I’m just, I’m glad I’m alive for another day. (Laughs, eats fruit, smiles.)
She [Mueller] served very well. I knew she had a good serve. I was quite nervous going into today. I didn’t play my best tennis, I think because I haven’t played a match in a while. You know, I’m just building my game back after being ill for so long.
I’m feeling good now. I felt good today. That was a three-set match over two hours and I still feel good now. I was saying, while training before this tournament, this is the first time this year that I felt good.
I felt 100% today.
On her coaching changes:
I stopped working with my old coach Mauricio [Hadad]. It was a tough decision, it’s always going to be a tough decision, but I have to think of my career and what’s best for my career, and I thought that was the right decision for me to make.
This week I’m with Chip Brooks, who is with IMG Bollieteri, and then the next few weeks I’ll be traveling with Jeremy Bates through the hard-court season.
I don’t know what’s happening after the U.S. Open yet.
On what she’s looking for in a coach:
For me, it’s adding more to my game. Just learn more things. I want to learn everything I can to improve my game mentally and technically.
On the bright future of her generation in the WTA:
I think there’s a lot of up-and-coming players at the moment, and I think coming through juniors together everyone sees someone doing well, and it pushes them. I think it definitely helps.
On her decision to play the grass season, even though she wasn’t completely healthy:
I had to play that grass-court season. It’s my favorite part of the year on the grass at home. I just wanted to soldier through and play it, but it probably wasn’t the right decision.
If I had been much higher ranked and been able to skip tournaments just like that, and not have anything to worry about, then I would have. But seeing as I saw my ranking dropping. You know, I had gotten to my career high earlier this year, I was just worried. I panicked.
On Murray’s Wimbledon win:
It’s absolutely great. I called Murray to win the tournament from the beginning. I didn’t tell anyone that I did, but I actually did. (Laughs.) I think it’s absolutely brilliant. I hope it pushes British tennis.
On her relationship with Laura Robson:
It’s a friendly rivalry. We get on well. We play doubles, we play Fed Cup together, and she’s doing great. (Smiles.)
On her schedule for the rest of the season:
I’m playing both of those two [Rogers Cup and Cincinnati]. But actually, my ranking [is too low], so I won’t be in New Haven. I really wanted to play that as well. I just wanted to keep playing matches and get matches under my belt, even if it was week-in and week-out.
Watson plays Alize Cornet in the second round of the Citi Open.
Thanks for the chat, Heather!