In a dramatic match which lasted three hours and 11 minutes, Great Britain’s Heather Watson saved four match points to defeat Chinese Taipei’s Kai-Chen Chang 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(4) to capture the Japan Open Title in Osaka. The victory gave Watson her first WTA tour tournament the title, the first one for a British woman since 1988 when Sara Gomer won the title at Aptos.
This final featured two unseeded women who have never gone past the quarterfinal stage at any tournament before this.
Chang who dismissed seeds Sam Stosur and Laura Robson in earlier rounds, served for the first set at 5-4 and could not close it out. Watson rallied to take it 7-5. Watson had a match point in the second set at 5-3 but could not seal the deal, Chang took it 7-5.
Chang had four match points when serving for the match at 5-4, but lost the game and then the match in a final set tiebreak.
How close was this marathon match – both women ended it winning 129 points each.
“I was in the changing room afterwards, changing my clothes, and I thought to myself, ‘Did I really win?’ So it’s just starting to settle in,” Watson said. “I’ve worked so hard for this moment my whole career – that’s why I practiced so hard, ran all those miles and lifted all those weights, for moments like this.
“Britain has been breaking quite a few records recently, so I’m happy I could break another one today. I’m proud to do this for my country.”
Watson regrouped from missed opportunities battled to victory from the precipice when she had match points against her.
“I was already thinking about how I was going to cry in the locker room!” she said. “But after I saved the first one, I just took it point by point. I’m really proud of myself for getting through that.”
“She’s an amazing returner, so I wanted to go for it,” Watson said. “What I’ve learned from my coaches is to go for it and not hope they miss – as you get better and play the top girls, you’ve got to go for it because they won’t give it to you. So I went for it and I don’t regret it – though if I lost the match I probably would have regretted it. But I ended up winning the match, so I’ll get over it!”
Watson spoke about her friend and countrywoman Laura Robson who became the first British woman to make a final in 22 years, just three weeks ago.
“Laura and I have come through the rankings together – juniors and seniors – and we’re both very competitive, so when we see the other doing well, it pushes us,“ Watson said.” Knowing Laura did so well in China a few weeks ago definitely motivated me this week. But I think it’s great we’re really good friends off the court as well.”
In addition to her singles win, Watson made the doubles final with Kimiko Date-Krumm. The Brit would not win a second title on Sunday as top seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears won in 65 minutes, 6-1 6-4.
Sunday’s win means that Watson move ahead of Robson to become the No. 1 British women’s player again.