BRITAIN’S Heather Watson paid tribute to her rivalry with friend Laura Robson after becoming the first female tennis player from this country to win a WTA tour title for 24 years.
Watson, 20, had to save four match points before beating Chinese Taipei’s Chang Kai-Chen 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (7-4) in a rollercoaster three-hour final at the HP Open in Osaka, Japan yesterday.
The Guernsey youngster’s success came just a month after Robson, 18, ended a 22-year wait for a British woman to even reach a final of a WTA event and is the latest high point in a landmark year for UK tennis.
“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,” said Watson.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
British men’s No1 Andy Murray fell short of matching Watson’s success, as the man he defeated to win his first grand slam last month, Novak Djokovic, earned revenge in the Shanghai Masters final.
Murray had five match points in the second set but could not deliver the killer blow, eventually losing 5-7, 7-6 (13-11), 6-3 after three and a half hours.
“I’ve lost tougher matches than that before and I’m sure I will recover," said Murray, who beat world No2 Djokovic in last month’s epic US Open final.
“But it was a top-quality match. Both of us played some unbelievable tennis at times.”