LONDON (AFP) –
Heather Watson ended Britain’s 10-year wait to have a woman in the third round at Wimbledon as the youngster swept to a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Jamie Hampton of the United States on Wednesday.
For the first time since Elena Baltacha made it to the last 32 at the All England Club back in 2002, there will be a British female presence late in the first week.
It is uncharted terrority for Watson, whose reward for reaching the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time is a clash against third seed Agnieszka Radwanska or Elena Vesnina who put out Venus Williams in the first round.
With Baltacha and Anne Keothavong also through to the second round, there are signs this could be a long-awaited breakthrough year for Britain’s female players at their home Grand Slam.
“I’m just so pleased to get through that match. It definitely wasn’t easy and I knew I had to play my best,” Watson said.
“She wasn’t at her best at the beginning and I tried to take advantage. Then at the end I was telling myself not to double-fault on match point.”
Watson, ranked 103rd, showed impressive poise on Monday when she demolished the higher ranked Iveta Benesova after her match was switched Centre Court at the last minute.
The 20-year-old had risen to the occasion on her first Centre Court appearance to become the first British woman to win there since Jo Durie in 1985.
She picked up where she left off against Hampton with another formidable effort, this time out on Court Two.
Watson broke the world number 100 in the second game of the first set and pressed home her advantage with another break to open up a 4-0 lead.
Hampton was making her Wimbledon debut and also playing her first tournament on grass, so it was no surprise Watson was able to expose the 22-year-old’s lack of experience.
When Watson broke in the first game of the second set, it looked all too easy and her concentration wavered briefly as Hampton broke back.
But Watson just redoubled her efforts to secure another break for a 4-3 lead.
There was still one more test of her resolve as Hampton earned four break points in the next game, but she held serve before wiping away tears of joy as she closed out the most important win of her career.