Fri, Jan 12, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Watson races past Vekic into semi-finals at Hobart


Former champion Heather Watson yesterday capitalized on a fast start to race away from Donna Vekic and advance to a semi-final encounter at the Hobart International against last year’s champion, Elise Mertens.

Watson needed two wins just to make the main draw, but the Briton staved off her Croatian opponent’s late charge to prevail 6-0, 6-4 in the quarter-final contest.

The 2015 champion won the first 11 games as she homed in on a double-bagel victory before big-hitting Vekic finally established a foothold in the match.

Vekic reeled off four successive games and came within two points of leveling the second set before Watson broke for a sixth time to seal the contest in a little more than an hour.

“She’s a big hitter who can hit winners from pretty much anywhere,” said Watson, who converted all but two of her eight break-point opportunities.

“When that started to happen, the most important thing was not to panic. When you go that far up, it can feel a bit up and down when you lose the next four games, but I had to realize that I was still 5-4 up and playing well,” she added.

Meanwhile, the repeat of last year’s title showdown failed to materialize after losing finalist Monica Niculescu of Romania pulled out with a neck injury, allowing Belgium’s Mertens to advance to the last four without hitting a ball.

Fifth seed Lesia Tsurenko ended Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka’s strong run with a 6-1, 6-1 triumph to also secure a place in the last four.

The Ukrainian advances to meet Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu, who secured the last semi-final berth with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 win over American Alison Riske.

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