By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON (Reuters) – Heather Watson was struck down once again by her third-round Wimbledon curse and the Briton is getting rather fed up at her inability to clear that hurdle.
Two years after coming within two points of beating eventual champion Serena Williams at the same stage, Watson was two games from reaching the second week of a grand slam for the first time but came unstuck in a 3-6 6-1 6-4 defeat by Victoria Azarenka.
“I was gutted to lose that one. Just felt like I’d fallen at the same hurdle again. It hurt a lot today,” said Watson, who was toppled by Agnieszka Radwanska in the last 32 in 2012.
“I’ve got to the third round quite a few times now in different slams. I really wanted to make that push for the second week for my singles.
“The first few times I’d got to the third round, I was pleased with myself that I’d done well. (Now) I feel like I’m under-achieving.”
Watson had never won a set off Azarenka before, let alone won any of their four previous encounters.
But when the Briton won the first set on Friday with some sweetly struck winners, the Centre Court air was thick with anticipation that her coach Morgan Phillips would be investing in a heavy duty razor soon — as he had promised to shave his legs if Watson reached the second week at Wimbledon.
While little went her way in the second set, Watson again found her range in the third as she snapped back from being broken in the seventh game by drawing level at 4-4. It prompted one booming male voice to shout out: “Come on Miss Watson”
Even when Azarenka was serving for the match at 5-4, Watson showed plenty of heart to claw herself two break points.
But for all the fight she put up, Azarenka drew on the wealth of experience she has gained from winning two Australian Open titles to extinguish the Briton’s challenge.
“I backed myself more today as I’d been in the situation before,” said Watson, who will break back into the top 100 following her run here.
“Yeah I did fall at the final hurdle, but I felt confident and fought as hard as I could for every single point.”
As if facing Azarenka once was not enough, the Wimbledon draws appeared to have played a cruel trick on Watson as two hours later she was facing her again in a mixed doubles match on Court 8 with Finnish partner Henri Kontinen.
This time Watson did get the upper hand on the Belarussian.
“Well, I definitely didn’t want to lose to her twice in one day, so I was very pleased to get through that, finish on a good note. Obviously I would have wanted to get the singles,” she added .
“But she’s so experienced. She’s been at the top of the game for a long time. She just hung in there and played really well when it mattered.”
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, Editing by Ken Ferris)