After an early Sunday training session, Heather Watson was reflecting on a start of the season that has already seen her rise back up the rankings. She will open up against Yulia Putintseva who is lurking just around the Top 50.
Watson said: “I’ve played her a couple of times. She’s a feisty one (smiling). I’m sure it’ll be entertaining, and she’s feisty because she’s a fighter, so I know it’ll definitely be a battle out there. She had a really good year last year as well, so it will be a tough match.”
What has been pleasing to see is the good aggressive strieks to Watson’s game. Her serving has looked very sharp – it was an area she specifically wanted to improve and it really has served her well in her matches in Brisbane and Hobart.
What has been missing for a lot of the year though is consistency. Despite some good results in the Fed Cup in spring, things were not rosy in the garden of the Guernsey girl during the US hard court spring.
She said: “In Miami I didn’t have a coach, I was, yeah, mot in a great place with my tennis or just really enjoying it much because I’d had no direction for so long, and I was just sort of looking for that consistency in my practices and off-court so that I could be happy and know what to work on and all of that, and now that I’ve got that, I’m just in a really good place. I think that’s important for me, being consistent.”
While Putintseva is a generally solid player, she can go off the boil quite spectacularly and still has some way to go mentally, so this match will definitely be entertaining.
Watson is not averse to a bit of on-court hollering, recently berating herself in Hobart for not being 40-0 up, before turning that and a few wayward calls to her favour. So what has been the change for her?
“I think as I’ve gotten older, of course I give my everything out there, it’s just a game at the end of the day, and it’s not the end of the world and I don’t need to beat myself up over it. I’d say I was too much of a perfectionist and it just did not help me out there.
“It’s more being level-headed and not making it so results orientated. It shouldn’t just all be about winning and losing and if I’m out there and I give my best for the match… everybody’s out here giving their best. You can’t win everything and they’re out there working just as hard, trying just as hard as you. It’s just all part of it.
It’s definitely helped me with my game and my tennis, dealing with pressure. I definitely enjoy it a lot more like this.”
They have played a couple of times and split the wins, but it has been a good few years since they have faced each other over the net. Putintseva had a fairly consistent year last year, but in terms of their starts in 2018, Watson just has an edge with some strong qualifying wins under her belt in Brisbane, and of course her Hobart run. We can expect a few fireworks, but this should get Watson on her way.
Watson and Putintseva are scheduled for Tuesday.