Australian Open: Heather Watson knocked out by Anett Kontaveit in second round


Heather Watson had won two of her previous five matches against Anett Kontaveit

Heather Watson was knocked out of the Australian Open by 21st seed Anett Kontaveit as the British challenge in the women’s singles came to an end.

It was a gutsy display by the 28-year-old Briton, who battled from 3-0 and 4-1 down and 5-2 down in the tie-break to take the opening set.

The Estonian fought back to take the second set before breaking twice in the decider en route to a 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-2 victory for a place in round three.

She will now face USA’s Shelby Rogers.

The Briton, ranked 60th, made a sluggish start inside the John Cain Arena against last year’s quarter-finalist, whom she had lost to in three of their previous five meetings.

But she soon settled and broke back in the seventh game with a superb cross-court forehand winner before winning five consecutive points to take the first-set tie-break.

A tight second set was effectively decided in the ninth game when Kontaveit’s best form came to the fore, producing two great backhand winners to seal her second break.

Watson’s own form dipped in the decider. The Briton’s win percentage on her first serve had fallen from 71% in the first set to 53% as she was broken twice more with Kontaveit completing her win with another backhand winner.

“I’m really happy with the way I played,” said the 25-year-old. “I hung in there – it was such a tough match.

“The momentum was swinging. I managed to fight for everything.”

There was British success in the men’s doubles on Thursday. Fifth seeds Joe Salisbury and American Rajeev Ram began the defence of their title with a 6-4 6-4 win over Briton Jonny O’Mara and New Zealand’s Artem Sitak.

Neal Skupski and brother Ken, the 16th seeds, defeated Canadian singles star Felix Auger-Aliassime and Pole Hubert Hurkacz 6-3 6-2 to reach round two.

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Anett Kontaveit on what it’s like to be out of hard lockdown and in Melbourne


I was so excited to eat with real cutlery because we have used bamboo cutlery in the hotel, and to have a nice meal straight from the kitchen that wasn’t delivered.

It was nice to go for a walk in the sun and in the fresh air, and I am planning to go shopping too, and take more strolls in the coming days.

As I waited for the clock to countdown to midnight on Friday night, I was so excited I couldn’t focus on anything else other than getting out.

As soon as I got out of the room I felt so happy, more than normal, just appreciating being outside in the sun and getting my tan back. All these little things you normally wouldn’t think of.

We got taken down to the lobby, then into a car to my new hotel.

Unlike some players I didn’t do a midnight practice session. My coach didn’t want me to do that, fortunately.

I hit for the first time on Saturday afternoon, we pushed training back because of the late night.

I don’t remember being this excited for a practice for a very long time, if ever.

It was almost like I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.

It felt really good. I don’t usually struggle after breaks, I get back into it quite quickly. You have to be careful not to tweak something so I took it easy in the first few sessions to allow my body to be OK playing tennis again, the movement and all that.

I have played tennis for almost 20 years, you don’t forget the shots, you can still play. It just takes the body a little bit of time to get used to the intensity and moving and breathing.

In the room I did intervals to help my fitness, and the first few days out it wasn’t so hot in Melbourne, so it would be tougher if it was really hot as it can be here.

I haven’t struggled with the heat but hopefully I can acclimatise to it when it gets hot. My muscles are not used to playing, the movement is so different to what you can do in the room so some muscles are getting tight and sore from playing but it’s been OK.

I will play my first match on Wednesday in the WTA event. I can’t wait for the Australian Open and to play in front of crowds.

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The last crowds we played in front before COVID-19 were in February, in Dubai and Doha. Then there were also a small amount of spectators allowed at Palermo. But the last proper big crowds were at last year’s Australian Open.

I love playing in front of crowds and I like the big courts, and love having people around. There’s a buzz and people are excited to see you play. It gives so much to the sport and having fans and people around motivates us.

We feel it both ways. We can feel that people love coming to watch us, and feel lucky and grateful they can do that in Melbourne.

Anett Kontaveit was an Australian Open quarter-finalist in 2020.

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