British tennis is certainly on the rise, with Andy Murray taking the gold medal at the Olympics in the men’s singles and partnering Laura Robson to take the silver medal in the mixed doubles, then going on to win the UP Open. Now there is a women’s singles titleholder too – the first in 24 years – as 20 year old Heather Watson, ranked 71, lifted the winner’s trophy at the HPO Open in Osaka on Sunday afternoon after defeating Kai-Chen Chang in a three set thriller 7-5 5-7 7-6 (4).
The final of this tournament was indeed an unusual occasion, as neither player fighting for the title had ever been beyond a WTA main draw quarter final; and both were unseeded. Chang of Taipei, who is ranked 131, played the match of her career to oust number one seed and 9th ranked Sam Stosur in a tiebreaker third set in the semi-finals. As was to be expected in such a huge match for both these players, nerves played a huge part, as both had great chances but let them slip. In the first set, Chang served when leading 5-4 but was unable to hold and let Watson back in – and she took full advantage and wrapped it up 7-5.
The second set saw Watson at 5-3 with the chance for a straight set win, but she too could not capitalise on her advantage and let it slip away, losing the set 7-5.
The third set went to a tie breaker, a fitting end to such a huge battle, after Chang this time ran up a 5-3 and a 5-4 lead with three match points, but just could not hold on. After three hours and eleven minutes on court, Watson took the breaker 7-4 to get her first game, set and match in a WTA final.