14th October, 2012
Britain’s Heather Watson edged past Taiwan’s Chang Kai-chen in a marathon final at the Japan Women’s Open tennis tournament on Sunday, to become the first Briton in 24 years to win a WTA title.
The 20-year-old, in her first WTA final, squandered one match point while leading one set and hit a double fault on 5-4.
She had to save four match points in the final set before winning 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (7/4) after a match lasting three hours and 11 minutes.
Watson, however, failed to achieve a twin triumph when she and Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm lost the doubles final to top seed Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears of the United States 1-6, 4-6.
“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 practised 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 said Chang was “an amazing returner, so I wanted to go for it. 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 (double fault on her first match point).
“Though if I had lost the match I probably would have regretted it. But I ended up winning the match, so I’ll get over it!” she added.
Watson is the first Briton to win a WTA title since Sara Gomer at Aptos back in 1988.
For 22 years no Briton had even reached a WTA final until Laura Robson broke the drought with her run to the final in Guangzhou, China last month.
“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,” said Watson.
“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,” she added.
Watson, who received the winner’s cheque of 37,000 dollars, has also won three ITF titles, at Wrexham and Toronto in 2010 and at Frinton in 2009.