By Ros Satar
(May 29, 2013) PARIS – As much as she put up a spirited defense, in her first match back after illness, Britain’s Heather Watson bowed out in the first round to Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
Watson looked to be hitting cleanly through the ball but the first break came quickly for Voegele.
Watson seemed afflicted with a lack of first serves and even though at times she returned to the depth and pace of shot from her earlier games, it was not consistent enough to stop the first set going to the Swiss.
The second set started with three successive breaks before Watson settled into a more aggressive routine as Voegele’s serve deserted her.
Watson was the more dominant on Voegele’s weaker second serves, breaking her in her last two service games to take the second set.
Voegele took a break at that point, and on the restart, the momentum swung back towards the Swiss, breaking Watson in the first game.
Watson had her chances to level with Voegele serving at 4-3 but as the three break points came and went, so did Watson’s chance of being the sole British singles’ survivor.
A convincing hold to love sealed the set for Voegele.
At her post match news conference, Watson said: “I thought I had a good draw and a good chance to get through to the next round.
“I knew it was going to be tough my first match back. But still I’m super disappointed I lost.”
Watson said she did not feel as fit as she should be, but seemed to be more troubled with a recurrence of an elbow issue during the match, which ironically helped her, more than hindering her.
“I hit a serve in the beginning of the second set, and I felt my elbow hurting a bit, so I kind of took a bit off.
“I think that did me good.
“I made a few more first serves and ended up winning that set.”
Watson took time out of the tour to recover from glandular fever, finding out she was getting over the illness after a round of frustrating early tournament losses.
But thankfully, unless she feels faint or anything out of the ordinary, she is now just focused on getting back on track, building up slowly.
It is not just the physical side to contend with, though, reflecting on a couple of areas for improvement on the comeback trail.
She explained: “It’s being ready for the next shot and getting ready.
“I’ll just kind of hit a serve and just kind of stand there and expect it to come back to me.
“Also just focus, point in, point out, just the whole way through a match.
“I lost that a bit today.”
Watson is not done here yet, though.
She partners Ukranian Irina Buryachok in the women’s doubles and Britain’s Jonny Marray in the mixed doubles.
One thing is for sure – Watson has not lost that fighting spirit; she just needs the sharpness to come at the right time for the next slam.