Heather Watson, Laura Robson and Johanna Konta

For those of you who are interested in tennis, it may be interesting to look out for Heather Watson from Guernsey. She's 18 and seems to be slowly climbing the ratings. She is currently playing in Memphis and earlier today won her second round match so has reached the quarter finals. Even if she loses her next match, she could climb 10 places or so to around 135. Anne Keothavong in the same tournament lost her second round match.

Heather Watson is third in the British women's rankings but is 9 years younger than both Elena Baltacha  (first) and Anne Keothavong (second). Laura Robson is a year younger than Heather Watson, but is out injured at present. It is too soon to say how she will improve during this next year, but at present these two seem to be the future of British tennis.

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Heather Watson has celebrated her 19th birthday today by winning her second match in the qualifiers for the French Open. If she wins her next match she will be in the main draw.

 

Her progress in the rankings has continued and she is now ranked 119 (Elena Baltacha is ranked 83 and Anne Keothavong 108).

Heather Watson did win her next match so has qualified for a place in the main draw for the French Open. This is the first time she has secured a place in one of the Grand Slam tournaments. She has been drawn against French wildcard Stephanie Foretz Gacon. The French wildcard is currently ranked 140 so is 21 places below Heather, but of course has an advantage of playing at home.

As a result of Heather Watson's recent success she has moved up in the rankings and is now the number 2 British player.

Rankings published today are:

Elena Baltacha is ranked 74

Heather Watson is ranked 93

Anne Keothavong is ranked 110

 

Heather is in the Aegon Classic tournament which started in Birmingham today. She has won her first match 6:3, 7:5 against Chanelle Scheepers who is seeded 15th in this tournament (but ranked 89 in the world).

 

The WTA rankings also show the WTA race rankings. This is based on results in the current year rather than for the last 12 months. These rankings show that

Elena Baltacha is ranked 63, Heather Watson is ranked 64, and Anne Keothavong is ranked 91. Chanelle Scheepers is ranked 43 so Heather Watson's win becomes more significant. It is premature to say this, but I would not be surprised if she doesn't become British number 1 in the not too distant future.

Heather Watson has been given a wildcard for Wimbledon. Although the top 100 ranked players automatically qualify for Grand Slam events and she is now ranked 93, the cut off date for Wimbledon was before the French Open when she was still ranked over 100.

Heather Watson and Elena Baltacha have been given wildcards for next week's Aegon International at Eastbourne. The other British players have to go through the qualifying stages.

 

Heather Watson will face Vera Zvonareva, who is the world number 3, in the first round so this will be Heather's toughest match to date.

Today's new rankings show:

Elena Baltacha improves from 74 to 61 as a result of her win yesterday at Nottingham

 

Heather Watson stays at 93

Anne Keothavong slips from 110 to 113

 

Naomi Broady improves from 231 to 216 as a result of progressing to the second round at Birmingham.

 

Today's new rankings reflect the Wimbledon results and shows that:

Elena Baltacha has improved to 58 (as a result of getting through to the second round)

Anne Kethavong has improved to 94 (as a result of getting through to the second round)

Heather Watson had dropped to 106 (as a result of being given a wild card so not having to participate in the qualifying stages then losing in the first round)

Laura Robson has shown the biggest improvement rising from 254 to 185 (as a result of getting through to the second round)

 

Overnight from the BBC website:

 

British teenager Heather Watson gave former champion Maria Sharapova an almighty scare before the Russian prevailed on day one of the US Open.

Watson, 19, led 6-3 5-5 at one stage but eventually went down 3-6 7-5 6-3 in a dramatic match at Flushing Meadows.

The Briton had been given little chance against Sharapova, ranked 100 places higher at fourth, but almost produced one of the great US Open shocks.

Watson's fellow Briton Laura Robson earlier made it through to round two.

Robson progressed when her Japanese opponent Ayumi Morita retired with a shoulder injury, but it was Watson's performance that took centre stage on Monday.

The best thing about Watson's magnificent challenge to Sharapova was the self belief. She told me afterwards that she believed she could win from the moment the draw came out and didn't stop believing. And she played like it. From the first game, when she made every first serve, she seemed free of the pressures so many young, lowly ranked players seem shackled by. Even much later in the match, after Sharapova had a 4-1 lead and break points for 5-1, Watson still believed. She broke back and fought to the end. "What did you learn?" I asked her afterwards. "I learned what I'm capable of," she replied. Great answer.

 

"I had a lot of fun today," said the teenager from Guernsey. "It's what I want to do. I want to be out there on the big courts playing the top players. It was a really great match, very competitive. We played some really great tennis.

"I had my chances in the second set. You have to create the opportunity but also execute, and I was probably a bit too defensive on those important points.

"But I always believed I could win. There's no point in my going out there if I don't believe that I can win."

Watson, the 2009 junior champion, was playing in the US Open main draw for the first time, but despite it being the highest-profile match of her life she took to the imposing surroundings of Arthur Ashe Stadium like a natural.

Sharapova, seeded third, was widely seen as the second favourite for the tournament behind Serena Williams, but the erratic serving that has blighted her this year was still in evidence.

Watson needed no encouragement, standing close to the baseline and going toe-to-toe with the Russian's heavy groundstrokes, and she broke to love at the first opportunity.

When Sharapova broke back immediately it seemed the former world number one was about to take control, but another double-fault handed the advantage back to the Briton and she did not relinquish it.

After converting her third set point in game nine, Watson immediately broke at the start of the second set and it was panic stations for Sharapova.

The decibel level increased with the pace of the Russian's groundstrokes and she bludgeoned her way back to parity before the power began to tell and she moved 4-1 clear, but it was not totally convincing and her sixth double fault of the day brought Watson back on serve.

Three superb points got Watson of trouble when she served at 5-4 down and 0-30, but Sharapova made the breakthrough at the next opportunity to level at one set all.

Watson's resistance was far from over and it took a marked improvement in Sharapova's form for the 2006 champion to finally dominate, battling into a 4-1 lead and having break points for 5-1.

The 24-year-old could not quite shake off the Briton, however, and was pegged back to 4-3 before a fine return game gave Sharapova the chance to finally serve for the match.

Few can have expected Watson to keep such an illustrious opponent on court for two hours and 34 minutes but that was how long the Russian required to close out the victory.

"It was one of the toughest (opening matches) that I've had," said Sharapova. "Obviously not really knowing too much about my opponent and not facing her before, she just came out and played really smart.

"There's no doubt that I wasn't playing my best tennis. She was smart in making me hit another ball. I was making so many errors out there. She stuck to her game plan. She kept grinding."

Heather Watson is having a really good week at the tournament at Shrewsbury. She has just won her match and has reached the final. She is currently ranked 99th. Her aim at the beginning of the season was to reach the top 100. Her success at Shrewsbury is likely to improve her rankings by around 10 places and will increase her confidence for the rest of the season.

Following Anne Keothavong's excellent recent successes she has shot up the rankings. Today's rankings just released and I think are the final rankings this year show for the top British players:

Elena Baltacha 50

Anne Keothavong 73

Heather Watson 92

Laura Robson 131

 

Confirmation that Heather Watson succeeded in her ambition at the start of the season to get into the top 100.

From the BBC:

 

Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson and Laura Robson have been named in the Great Britain team for next month's Fed Cup tie in Israel.

The Europe/Africa Zone Group One event, which features 15 teams, takes place in Eilat from 1-4 February.

A top-two finish in the event would see GB progress to April's World Group II play-offs.

Judy Murray will captain the team for the first time since her appointment last month.

"Our team is an exciting mix of youth and experience," Murray said.

In addition to the selected quartet, world number 317 Tara Moore will travel as the reserve for an event that also features Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Sweden.

And Murray added: "In Elena and Anne we're lucky to have two established Tour players who are great competitors and so passionate about representing their country.

"With Heather, Laura and Tara, we have three young and very promising players who will bring a lot of energy to the team and will be looking to make their marks.

"Our goal is to progress through the group and, while we know this will be tough, if we play to our potential it is achievable."

 

 

Although Great Britain has a fair chance in this event, based on the 2011 final rankings, Romania are likely to be the favourites, but the second place is not unrealistic.

 

Although Heather Watson had an ankle injury which meant that she withdrew from the first tournament of the season in New Zealand, she is hoping to be in the next tournament which starts in Australia on the 6th as part of her preparation for the Australian Open which begins on the 16th. And the signs are that she is intending to take part as she landed in Australia yesterday.

 

Following the somewhat disappointing first round exits in the Australian for the British players, these are the current rankings:

 

Elena Baltacha 57 from 54

Anne Keothavong 88 from 73

Heather Watson 106 from 105

Laura Robson 118 from 134

 

Laura Robson's rise was due to her being the only one of the above 4 to have to go through the qualifying matches where she won all three matches and so gets a boost in the ratings.

The British players are currently involved in the Federation Euro/Africa Zone Group I matches this week taking place in Israel. They are in Group C. There are 4 groups. The winners of Group A will meet the winners of Group C. The winners of Group B will meet the winners of Group D. The winners of the two matches will then move to the World Group II playoffs in April.

 

They won their first set of matches against Portugal 3-0.

Anna Keothavong beat Maria Joao Koehler 6-3 6-4 before Elena Baltacha saw off Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-2 6-3 to seal the tie, being played in Israel.

Heather Watson and Laura Robson then defeated Koehler and Larcher de Brito 7-5 6-0 in their doubles match.

 

They won their second set of matches against the Netherlands 2-1.

British number two Anne Keothavong lost 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 to Bibiane Schoofs.

Elena Baltacha responded from being a break down in the second set to beat Michaella Krajicek 6-3 6-3 before doubles duo Heather Watson and Laura Robson secured victory 7-5 7-6 (7-5).

 

The third set of matches are against the home country, Israel and are currently in progress.

Anne Keothavong has won her match against Julia Glushko 6-2, 6-1.

Elena Baltacha's match against Shahar Peer (who is ranked 37 in the world) is ongoing. Elena Baltacha has won the first set 6-4, and had just won the second set 6-3 therefore winning this match.

 

This means that regardless of the result of the doubles match and the other matches being played in Group C, Great Britain has won Group C and will meet the winners of Group A.

The first match between today'smatches between Great Britain and Austria was between Anne Keothavong (ranked 57) and Patricia Mayrachleitner (ranked 96). Anne Keothavong won 7-6, 6-3.

 

The second match was between Elena Baltacha (ranked 88) and Tamira Paszek (ranked 48). Elena Baltacha has won 6-1, 6-4.

 

This means that regardless of the doubles match, Great Britain has beaten Austria and therefore qualify for the playoffs in April.

For completeness sake, in the third match yesterday Heather Watson and Laura Robson beat Glushko and Keren Shlomo 6-2 6-1 in the doubles.

 

This makes it a perfect start for Judy Murray as the new coach for the Great Britain team in the Federation Cup.

Although Judy Murray had hoped for a home draw in the Federation Cup World Group II play offs, Great Britian has been drawn away to Sweden. The matches will be played on 21 and 22 April. Of the 4 countries they could have been drawn against, Sweden were seeded third. They have 2 players in the top 100 - Johanna Larsson (62) and Sofia Arvidsson (74), but no-one else in the top 500. Whichever country wins will be promoted to World Group II.

After a disappointing start to the season where Heather Watson has slipped to 129 in the rankings, things are starting to improve.

Heather Watson stormed into the third round of the Miami Masters with a superb 6-2 6-1 victory over world number 25 Lucie Safarova.

The 19-year-old wildcard from Guernsey, ranked 129, wrapped up her second-round win in one hour, 20 minutes. Her next match will be much tougher as she faces world number one Victoria Azarenka, who thrashed her 6-1 6-0 in the Australian Open. But then she was playing with an ankle injury.

 

Although Laura Robson missed out on qualifying for the French Open, Heather Watson has qualified. She qulaified last year and got through to the second round. She needs to do at least as well if she has any chance of getting selected for the Olympics.

 

The first round draws for the British players are:

Elena Baltacha ranked 67 v Samantha Stosur seeded 6 and a tough match for Baltacha

Heather Watson ranked 109 v Elena Vesnina ranked 80

(if Heather wins she would face the winner of Lucie Hradecka ranked 66 v Julia Goerges seeded 25)

Anne Keothavong ranked 76 v Melinda Czink ranked 116

(If Anne wins she would face the winner of Greta Arn ranked 104 v Anastasia Pavlvuchenkova seeded 22)

The French Open results for the British players will be critical for the British women as to who qualifies. There will be 56 players who qualify. These would be based on rankings but there is a cap of 4 players from any one country. So it is thought that the players in the top 70 have a fair chance of qualifying. That means that Elena Baltacha will be right on the edge of qualifying as she got to the 2nd round last year at the French Open so could drop in the rankings.

Anne Keothavong only got to the first round last year so she has a decent chance of getting to the second round this time so could go up in the rankings.

Heather Watson would have to do better than she did last year when she got to the second round, so she will have to get to at least the 3rd round to have any chance of getting qualification to the Olympics.

 

There are 8 wildcards for the Olympics so there may still be a chance for those who don't qualify by right.

 

Laura Robson has been given a place in the French Open as the first alternate as she only just missed out in the qualification rounds. She will play Anabel Medina Garrigues who is ranked 33.

 

Elena Baltacha has lost against the 6th seed Samantha Stosur winning 6-4, 6-0.

 

Yesterday Laura Robson was beaten by Anabel Medina Garrigues who won 6-2, 6-1.

 

Today Anne Keothavong was beaten by Melinda Czink who won 6-1, 6-2.

 

However Heather Watson has beaten Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-4. She is now the only British woman left and will face Julia Goerges seeded 25 in round 2.

 

If she doesn't win that match Britain could find itself in the rather embarassing position of having no women in the Olympics other than through wildcards.

No pressure then.

 

It's worth repeating Jonathan Overend's (BBC correspondent) analysis of Heather Watson's match today.

 

"With the exception of one poor game in the second set, for which she can surely be excused, this was an excellent performance from Watson. She served and returned superbly and moved around the clay court like a seasoned pro. A technical change to her service motion has given her more bite, especially on the first delivery on which she didn't lose a single point in a dominant first set. Her beaming smile, as she left the court, illuminated this little corner of western Paris. Back in "happy land". "

 

Following on from her getting through to the 3rd round at Wimbledon, Heather Watson has got through to the 2nd round at Stanford. 

 

I think this means that when the next set of world rankings are announced next Monday she will become Britain's leading woman tennis player (for a time).

 

Laura Robson beat second seed Roberta Vinci in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals of the Italiacom Open.

England's Robson, 18, won the first set 6-3 but was a break down at 5-3 in the second set in Palermo, Sicily.

However, the world number 113 twice broke Vinci, ranked 27th, and then served out to take the set 7-5.

In the last eight she faces fifth seed Carla Suarez Navarro, who beat Anna Tatishvili 6-1 3-2 after the Georgian retired because of injury.

 

Laura Robson reached the semi-finals of a tournament on the main WTA tour for the first time as she defeated Carla Suarez Navarro at the Italiacom Open.

The 18-year-old Briton beat the fifth seed 6-4 2-6 6-3 in two hours and two minutes in fierce heat in Sicily.

Robson, ranked 113th in the world, overcame the world number 41 in a match briefly delayed at the start of the third set because of the heat.

The final set had five breaks of serve in a row before Robson held to win.

On Thursday Robson had claimed the highest ranked victim of her career when she beat world number 27 Roberta Vinci, the second seed, to reach the last eight of the clay court tournament.

 

This result will probably mean that Laura Robson will break into the top 100 when the rankings are next announced, presumably on Monday.

Heather Watson must be even happier than usual:

On the BBC website:

 

Heather Watson has won her first WTA tour title with a doubles victory at the Bank of West Classic in Stanford and has also become British number one.

The 20-year-old and her New Zealand partner Marina Erakovic beat Vania King and Jarmila Gajdosova 7-5 7-6 (9-7).

"This is my first WTA title, so I'm really happy right now," said Watson.

She rises to 71st in the singles rankings - making her the lead Briton for the first time - with three compatriots also in the top 100.

Anne Keothavong drops a place to 76th, Laura Robson is the youngest player in the top 100 at a career-high 91st and Elena Baltacha is 100th.

It is the first time Britain has had four women in the top 100 since 12 March 1991 when Jo Durie, Sara Gomer, Sarah Loosemore and Monique Javer formed the quartet.

 

Rise of the Brits

  • Heather Watson - world number 71
  • Anne Keothavong - 76
  • Laura Robson - 91
  • Elena Baltacha - 100

It was Watson's first title of any description on the WTA tour and serves as ideal preparation for her Olympic campaign.

She will compete for Team GB alongside 18-year-old Laura Robson after the pair were handed a doubles wildcard.

Against King and Gajdosova, Watson and Erakovic broke three times to win the first set before slipping behind early in the second.

They fought back to serve for the match at 5-3, only to let the lead slip and waste two match points on their opponents' delivery.

But Watson and Erakovic held firm in the tie-break to clinch victory.

"It's such a nice feeling getting to the end of the week and being the last ones here," the Briton added.

"We knew it wasn't going to be an easy match today - they're both great players and we knew we would really have to win it, they weren't going to give it to us."

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