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Serena outlasts Watson to set up clash with sister

By: Allan Blanks

Serena Williams outlasts heather Watson to advance to the fourth round where she will take on her sister Venus.

Serena Williams outlasts heather Watson to advance to the fourth round where she will take on her sister Venus.

It’s been said many times. Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it. At 12 years of age, the 59th ranked Heather Watson, wished to compete against world’s number one, Serena Williams. Eleven years later, the punishing power of Williams, clashed with the counter-­punching prowess of Watson. After trailing 3-­0 in the third set, the five­-time Wimbledon champion won seven of the last nine games, to defeat the British number one, 6-­2, 4­-6, 7­-5.

“That was probably my toughest match that I’ve played [recently on Centre Court],” Williams said. “I played Heather (Watson) in front of her home crowd, she played unbelievable and I think she should have won the match.”

Ahead 5-­4, Watson had the chance to serve for the match, but a series of second serves provided Williams ample opportunities to dictate points. During the contest, Williams return of serve generated 55 points compared to Watson’s 36.

“Every small opportunity you got, you just have to take it,” Watson said. “If you don’t, she’ll (Williams) punish you for it.”

Williams produced 53 winners, 13 aces and a tournament high, 122-miles per hour serve. Throughout the match, Williams showcased her shot-­making ability and her unrelenting desire to win. Watson consistently challenged Williams as she varied the depth, adjusted the pace, and changed the directions of her ground-strokes. Lobs, drop­-shots, and slices out wide yielded 33 unforced errors from Williams. For the contest, Watson strung together 20 winners, three aces, and committed 11 unforced errors.

Although this was the first meeting between the two contenders, both Williams and Watson shared the pressure associated with winning.

The top seeded Williams has a calendar grand­-slam at stake, and is attempting to rewrite history by earning her 21st major championship. Prior to the contest, Watson and her family received death threats on twitter, after she pulled an upset against Daniela Hantuchova. It’s been suspected that angered gamblers made the threats.

In the opening set, the American aggressively attacked Watson’s ground-strokes and pinned her to the baseline. Watson’s racquet motion appeared tentative, and she was unable to assert herself on the court. While Watson played cautiously, Williams unleashed a battery of vicious backhands and thunderous forehands. Williams pushed her opponent side­-to­-side and closed points emphatically. The all­-court aggressiveness of Williams manufactured 12 winners, 11 receiving points and 83-­percent of points won at the net. The explosive defense of Williams restricted Watson to three winners. Confidence was critical for each player, especially Watson.

“I have to believe I can win from the first moment [I step on the court],” Watson told the International Business Times. “I’ll have to be very aggressive and push myself out of my comfort zone against her (Williams).”

With the second stanza underway, Watson swung her racquet with more authority, and took control of the match. The British hopeful opened the court and painted lines. With Williams on the move, this negated the strength and depth of the American’s ground strokes. To further frustrate Williams, Watson systematically used the court to her advantage, as she focused on placement. Low­-lying slices were placed out wide, while drop­-shots and lobs were utilized based on Williams’ court positioning. Watson converted 80­percent of her volleys, constructed nine winners, and broke Williams twice.

“I’ve learned that I can compete with the best in the world,” Watson said. “I can play really good tennis.”

No longer intimidated by her childhood idol, Watson continued extend points and strategically place her shots. Down 3­0 in the final set, Williams made two major adjustments. First, the American increased her patience, and waited for opportunities to close the point. As Watson scrambled and pushed shots into play, the court eventually opened up for Williams to connect winners. In the deciding set, Williams converted 18 winners to Watson’s three. The second course of action was cutting the court off by delivering short­-angled ground-strokes. Williams consistently sliced, and used topspin to paint angles near the service box. Although Watson was able to retrieve these ground-strokes, the British contender left herself vulnerable for passing shots, and granted Williams open spaces to finish points. This tactic allowed Williams to turn the contest around, and advance to the round of 16 to face the 16th ranked Venus Williams.

“She’s (Venus Williams) in better form than I am,” Williams said. “So that’s a little bit of an advantage going into the match [for Venus Williams], but at least one of us will be in the quarterfinals.”

This will be the 25th meeting between the Williams sisters, and Serena Williams leads the series 14-­11.

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Allan Blanks

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