Britain’s Heather Watson suffered a narrow 6-7 (7-9) 6-3 6-4 defeat by world No2 Maria Sharapova at the Pan Pacific Open
Heather Watson is currently ranked 78th in the world
With 11 of the top dozen women in the world making the long journey to the Far East for the final push to the WTA Championships, Heather Watson’s first participation in the ‘Asian Swing’ was a real baptism of fire.
The 20-year-old British No2—just one point behind Laura Robson last week—hot-footed from Quebec to win through the qualifying rounds in Tokyo, the first of two Premier tournaments on the western Pacific rim.
Without a singles win since the first round of the Olympics, Watson was looking for a launch-pad to a strong end-of-year run, and she found it. With two qualifying wins under her belt—one a tough three-setter over Andrea Hlavackova, ranked 15 places above her—she then put out the powerful German Sabine Lisicki who, though currently ranked at 30, was ranked No12 as recently as May.
As luck—of the bad kind—would have it, Watson then faced No2 Maria Sharapova who she also faced in the first round of the US Open last year. Since that match, Watson had also drawn the short straw in the first round of the Australian Open with Victoria Azarenka and then Na Li in her US Open opener this year.
The good news, though, was that Watson had pushed Sharapova to the limits in that first and only meeting. She took the first set and broke early in the second before the Russian turned it around, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. It proved to be the same story in Tokyo.