Heather Watson laments missed opportunity in Melbourne

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A downcast Heather Watson admitted she had not played a smart match after losing to Yulia Putintseva in the opening round of the Australian Open.

Watson was unable to join British compatriots Johanna Konta and Kyle Edmund in the second round in Melbourne, with Kazakh Putintseva edging a very tight contest 7-5 7-6 (8/6).

Watson held a set point in the second set tie-break but could not take it and reflected afterwards on an opportunity missed.

Heather Watson shows her frustration during her loss to Yulia Putintseva
Heather Watson was upset with herself during her loss to Yulia Putintseva (Ng Han Guan/AP)

“She did very well moving and retrieving a lot. I felt like I had finishing balls constantly and wasn’t able to finish the point. I just don’t feel that I played very well or very smart.”

Watson arrived in Melbourne full of confidence after a run to the semi-finals of the Hobart International but knew exactly what to expect from a match against Putintseva, one of the feistiest players on tour.

The 23-year-old, ranked 14 places higher than Watson at 54 in the world, made the better start and secured an early break but the British number two fought back well to level at 4-4.

Watson was becoming frustrated at the number of long rallies she was being dragged into but could not find the first-strike tennis she was looking for and it was Putintseva who clinched the opening set.

Watson did up the aggression at the start of the second set and was rewarded with a 3-0 lead. This time it was Putintseva’s turn to show her annoyance at the partisan nature of the crowd, which was heavily in Watson’s favour.

But Putintseva responded well, levelling at 4-4 in a reversal of the first set and then breaking to give herself a chance to serve for the match at 6-5.

Back came Watson, digging in to break back and force a tie-break, and she held a set point to force a decider at 6-5. But she pulled a backhand wide and two more errors gave Putintseva the victory, which she celebrated exuberantly.

It was a big victory for Putintseva, who celebrated wildly
It was a big victory for Putintseva, who celebrated wildly (Ng Han Guan/AP)

“But even later on in that second set I still felt like I could get it and go on to a third set but unfortunately that didn’t happen.”

This result was all the more disappointing because of the encouraging form Watson has shown at the start of 2018, and she will now head to the WTA tournament in St Petersburg before teaming up with Konta in Fed Cup.

Watson said: “I’m feeling quite negative after the match today because I’m just really not happy with it but I have to take positives and I’ve had a lot of matches at the beginning of the year and it’s good. First round at a grand slam is always so tough and I can’t just look at today, I have to look at the weeks before as well.”

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