Elise Mertens is back into the third round at the French Open. For a second straight year, the Belgian who has been having the best season of her career advanced in a straight-sets victory over Heather Watson 6-3, 6-4 on Court Three at Roland Garros.
Both had two meetings in the books with one another- all in the Belgian’s favor. With one taking place at the start of the season, the Brit hoped to get revenge on the clay courts, making it the second surface they would compete on. Watson had an average result from her bout with Oceane Dodin while Mertens went the distance against Varvara Lepchenko to enter the second round in consecutive years. While she looked to make it back to back appearances in the third round, the 22-year-old had to put the stops in place and be the aggressor.
She opened with a break of serve, consolidating it with a service hold in the second. The early momentum was already getting the best of the Brit who couldn’t find the chance to break in the third, watching the gap widen between herself and Mertens. Watson’s seven unforced errors and struggling serves were the main cause for the Belgian’s success until the Brit fought back to deuce. Five break points spanned the fourth game lasting eight minutes where Watson made it difficult for Mertens to secure the hold and instead marked one for herself.
Mertens was in no mood to ease up, earning a break in the fifth to hold three games between herself and the 26-year-old. Watson had others plans though as she gained some momentum to cut into the margin.
Mertens denied her an opportunity to get back though, closing the first in 39 minutes. She outdid the Brit overall who had a dismal offense, winning just seven percent of her second serve points, whilst recording 17 errors.
The Belgian remained firm in her quest to clinch the win, starting the second set strongly. It was a mirror image of the opening set with Mertens taking a 2-0 lead. Watson earned a break in the third but faced heavy fire as Mertens secured the break for 3-1. While the Belgian pushed forward, Watson tried to find ways of making her serve count at every chance. She picked up the sixth game, holding two points on Mertens before scoring a much needed triple break point that cut Mertens' margin down to one. In the last ten points, Watson won eight of them, making her intentions clear to fight for a deciding set.
In an attempt to stop the Brit, Mertens rallied to deuce in the eighth but faced a strong barrage from the 26-year-old who showed poise to win long rallies despite double-faulting once on serve. With things dead even at four apiece, the Belgian made her charge on serve before attacking every part of Watson’s game in the tenth. Mertens achieved two match points to get it done in 1 hour and 27 minutes.
She’ll try to progress into the second week in Saturday’s matchup against either Daria Gavrilova or American Bernarda Pera.