TEENAGER Heather Watson scored a landmark victory for British tennis yesterday by becoming the first woman from these shores to win a match at Roland Garros for 17 years.
Watson, who turned 19 last week, is now projected to break the top 100 after the tournament following her 7-6, 6-1 victory over Stephanie Foretz Gacon.
Having saved four set points before taking the opening set on the tiebreak, 8-6, she then romped through the second and will now take on the 16th seed Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
“I don’t really know much about the records, but we’ve got a lot of good players coming through,” said Watson. “There’s Laura [Robson] coming up – and on the boys’ side there’s George Morgan and Olly Golding. I think we’re doing really well and we’re starting to see that hard work.”
Watson won’t, however, be joined by British No2 Anne Keothavong who suffered a 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 defeat against Vesna Dolonts.
Keothavong, 27, recovered to 3-3 in the decider but, hampered by cramp, finally lost out after the 201-minute battle.
“A loss is a loss and it’s a grand slam,” said Keothavong. “It’s definitely a match I felt I could have won but when you get a little older, have a bit more experience, you just learn to handle it a bit better.”
Francesca Schiavone, who lit up Roland Garros 12 months ago when she became the first Italian woman to win a grand slam title, began her title defence with a 6-2, 6-0 hammering of the American Melanie Oudin.
Elsehwere, world No2 Novak Djokovic extended his winning streak to 40 matches after a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 win over Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker.
“It’s been an amazing streak which, if you asked me in the beginning of the year ‘would I expect that?’ No, I didn’t expect that, to go this far,” said Djokovic.
Third seed Roger Federer swept past Spain’s Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 but eighth seed Tomas Berdych, who beat Andy Murray en route to the semi-final last year, fell victim to French qualifier Stephane Robert who won 3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 9-7.