Wednesday , October 5 2022

The busiest tennis player at Wimbledon — Heather Watson has advanced, despite her chaotic, disrupted schedule

LONDON — Heather Watson dropped to her knees in the middle of No. 1 Court on Friday. She bent her head down to the ground, and silently thanked the grass. She took in the moment.

Watson had just advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon with a 7-6 (6), 6-2 victory over Kaja Juvan. The smile plastered on her face as she stood up said it all.

“It means everything,” Watson told the audience moments later. “Playing here at home in front of you guys, the atmosphere is everything.”

She stopped while a fan yelled, “We love you, Heather.”

“I love you too,” she said in response. “Can all of you come back for my fourth round?”

If her reaction seemed over-the-top for the moment, consider this: It marks the first major Round of 16 in the 30-year-old’s career.

And she had done it with the wildest, most disrupted schedule possible.

Due to delays caused by darkness and rain, Watson has played singles during all five days of action at Wimbledon thus far. She started her first-round match against Tamara Korpatsch on Monday night — a day which had earlier seen action paused due to rain — before it was suspended due to darkness and had to be completed on Tuesday.

Then Watson’s second-round match with Wang Qiang suffered a similar fate on Wednesday evening, and it was also suspended at 7-5, 5-4. On Thursday, she needed just one game, and eight minutes, to punch her ticket to the third round.

Through it all, she has dealt with nights of four hours of sleep, an abundance of caffeine, limited late-night food options (quiche was the only thing available on Wednesday night) — and a complete lack of a routine. But, somehow, the chaos has worked in her favor, and she achieved her career-long goal of reaching the second week at a Grand Slam.

“[This is] the first time I get to enjoy this win, because I feel like in my first two matches I was just constantly in focus mode. It was like the match hadn’t stopped, even when I was leaving the club. It’s been suspended; I’m going to sleep or trying to sleep,” Watson said on Friday.

“It was always just straight on to the next one. So I feel like this win’s very different to the others, not just because I’ve reached one of my goals but because I have a bit of time for it to sink in.”

But there actually wasn’t any time on Friday to do that. After several media appearances following the victory, Watson was scheduled to play in her first-round doubles match with partner Harriet Dart.

And her schedule likely won’t get any less hectic over the next few days – Watson is also playing mixed doubles with Ken Skupski, and they are expected to play on Saturday.

Watson has long been a beloved British player for the Wimbledon crowds, and won the mixed doubles title at the event in 2016. Now, in her 12th appearance at the All England Club, she will have the opportunity to extend her singles stay and reach the quarterfinals on Sunday in a clash against Jule Niemeier, who surprised No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit in the second round.

The two played in Monterrey earlier this year, with Watson winning in three sets. But with so much tennis to play first, Watson hadn’t started thinking about that just yet. She didn’t even know she was playing Niemeier until a reporter informed her.

“It never ends,” Watson said. “Loads of tennis, but that’s a good thing. Just making sure I just take care of myself. I’m just sort of in the moment right now, not thinking ahead, not thinking back.”


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