French Open: Heather Watson defeats Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in first round
Last Updated: 27/05/14 2:53pm
Heather Watson continued her French Open run with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the first round of the tournament proper.
The British No 2 came through the qualifying tournament at Roland Garros and looks to have carried that solid form into the main draw.
Watson was in control throughout against a player ranked 29 places higher than her and eventually completed a relatively straightforward win in an hour and 35 minutes to set up a clash with Simona Halep.
The victory was Watson's first at a grand slam since last year’s Australian Open, at which time she was already feeling the effects of the glandular fever that would ruin her 2013 season.
The 22-year-old has been going much better this year and, cheered on by vocal British support on Court Six, made a flying start to win the first three games.
In the third game she won a point despite a complete air shot on an attempted smash, flicking the ball back over her shoulder before Zahlavova Strycova missed a backhand.
The Czech pulled it back to 3-2, though, helped by a call from umpire Kader Nouni, who ruled Watson had touched the net with her racquet when she thought she had won the game.
"I tried to play it off, but I did hit the net. It happens. There was no way I could have stopped to not hit the net. It's just unfortunate," Watson said of the incident.
"You've just got to deal with how it goes. That ended up being a really long game and I lost it, but then after that I came back and was able to win the next few games.
I just had to deal with what I was given today. I'm happy with how I played and got through. I'm just keeping focused for the next round.
Watson eventually dropped serve after a long game but put the disappointment behind her to break again. She eventually took the opening set when her opponent drilled a backhand long.
The pair exchanged early breaks in the second set but a time violation appeared to affect Zahlavova Strycova and she dropped serve again in the seventh game.
The Czech saved the first two match points she faced but not the third as Watson clinched victory with a big forehand.
Watson said: "I didn't feel I played as well as I have been today, but she's a very different sort of player. She is very tricky. She hits drop shots and comes to the net on random balls, not usually the right balls, to throw you off.
"I just had to deal with what I was given today. I'm happy with how I played and got through. I'm just keeping focused for the next round."
Watson faces a much tougher test in the second round as she will face fourth seed Halep, who cruised to a 6-0 6-2 victory over Alisa Kleybanova.
The rising Romanian star won the first 11 games of the match before her Russian opponent finally got herself on the board, avoiding a dreaded ‘double bagel’ at the last opportunity.
But Kleybanova, who was ranked as high as 20 in the world before undergoing cancer surgery in 2011, could not avoid a 56-minute defeat.