Heather Watson overcame illness and an experienced opponent to reach the quarter-finals of the AEGON GB Pro-Series Barnstaple international tennis tournament.
Watson’s three-set victory against Ana Vrljic, of Croatia, sets up a meeting at the Tarka Tennis Centre tomorrow with Johanna Konta, the player who last month replaced her at No 2 in the British rankings.
Seemingly suffering the effects of a heavy cold, which required her to call the trainer to the court after the second set, Watson battled through to a 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 victory.
Illness has been the story of Watson’s year with a bout of glandular fever diagnosed in the spring sparking a slump in the world rankings from 39 to outside the top 120.
The 21-year-old has been showing signs of a return to form with a run to the semi-finals at a tournament in France last week and yesterday’s straight-sets win against Kristina Kucova, of Slovakia. It would be a shame if her latest ailment derailed that momentum.
Watson at 100% would probably have been too good for Vrljic who, at 29, has been on the tour for more than 10 years but has never been beyond 180 in the rankings. She played some fine groundstrokes but there were times when she could barely get a first serve in.
It was little surprise when a double fault handed Watson two match points and, after Vrjlic conjured up her best serve of the match to save one, she netted a forehand in the subsequent rally to give the British player the win.
That was Watson’s seventh attempt at closing out the win, having been on match point five times in the previous game, which she eventually lost from the 20th point with her only double fault of the match.
At the end of the second set, which Vrljic clinched with four successive games, it had seemed as though Watson might not make it through a third. Every rally left her clasping her knees and gasping for breath.
Looking like she should be in bed with a gallon of Lemsip, Watson came out firing in the decider with powerful serves that brought plenty of faults but also some fine winners.
It was Konta’s opponent who was suffering in the first match on Court Two today. Tara Moore needed a medical timeout during her 6-4, 6-4 defeat because of a stomach problem.
Holding her serve just twice, Konta came back from 3-1 down to take the first set.
Moore clawed her way back from 3-1 down in the second to 4-4 but Konta broke back immediately and held serve to complete the win.
Having been fellow British players in the first two rounds – with Moore following Emily Webley-Smith – Konta will hope to make it a hat-trick against Watson tomorrow.
Watson versus Konta will be the last match on court tomorrow, starting at 4pm at the earliest.
Watson rallied to team up with Konta and beat Vrljic again in the doubles. Watson and Konta won 3-6, 7-6(5) (11-9) to reach the semi-finals.
Naomi Broady and Kristyna Pliskova beat Diana Marcinkevica and Katerina Vankova 6-2, 6-1.