Heather Watson edged past Taiwan’s Chang Kai-chen in a marathon final at the Japan Open yesterday 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 by 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 3 hours, 11 minutes.
However, Watson failed to achieve a twin triumph when she and Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm lost the doubles final to top seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears of the US 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 practiced 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],” she said. “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.”
Watson is the first Briton to win a WTA title since Sara Gomer in Aptos, California, 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 at Guangzhou Open in China last month where she lost to Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei.
When asked about her performance, Chang said: “I give myself 90 out of 100 points for my performance since the first match here. I’m quite satisfied. Perhaps I was more mature and knew what to do on court. My brother made a lot of changes in my training schedule, which helped me improve a lot, both technically and psychologically.”
AP, LINZ, Austria
Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka reached her ninth final of the season on Saturday, as she got ready to fave Julia Goerges for the title at the Generali Ladies.
In the semi-finals, Azarenka beat Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 6-2, 6-1, while Goerges rallied to defeat Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.
“Julia is a very tough opponent,” Azarenka said. “She feels well here in Linz and had some very good wins this week. It is a final, so everything can happen. I’ll have to be at my best.”
Azarenka, a winner of five events this year, including the Australian Open, is 3-1 against Goerges and she has never dropped a set against the German.
Azarenka’s only defeat came in Stuttgart, Germeny, last year when she pulled out with a shoulder injury after winning the opening set. Goerges went on to win that event, the most recent of her two career titles. She also won in Bad Gastein, Austria, in 2010.
“Obviously, I am the underdog, she is the world No. 1,” Goerges said. “I will try to play my own game, focus on myself and show her how dangerous my game can be.”
Azarenka is on a winning streak of 12 matches and she is yet to concede a set. She won in Beijing the previous weekend for her 12th career title and pulled out before the quarter-finals in Tokyo the week before. In Linz, she has not dropped more than two games in any set.
Early in her semi-final against Begu, Azarenka produced some unusual mistakes and dropped her opening service game, before cruising to victory.
“Her tennis was hard to judge, she played many different shots,” Azarenka said. “I was playing well, had a few mistakes here and there, but overall it was a good performance.”
The 19th-ranked Goerges, who also reached the final in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in February, dropped serve three times and double-faulted on set point against Flipkens. She settled with an early break in the second and dominated the rest of the match.
“She served well, so it was hard to get into the match,” Goerges said. “I am happy I managed to find my game in the second set and win the match.”
Additional reporting by CNA