Watson laughs off air-shot

Andover Advertiser: Heather Watson is through to the second round at Roland Garros Heather Watson is through to the second round at Roland Garros

Heather Watson put one of the more embarrassing shots of her career behind her to set up a second-round clash with fourth seed Simona Halep at the French Open.

Watson defeated Czech Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova 6-3 6-4 to extend her winning streak to nine matches after winning a title in Prague and qualifying at Roland Garros.

It also guarantees she will overtake the injured Laura Robson as British number one at the end of the tournament, with her ranking climbing significantly from its current mark of 92.

Watson began very well in cold and gloomy conditions on Court Six, breaking the Zahlavova-Strycova serve in the second game.

But in the third she took a complete fresh-air swing at an attempted smash, although she did recover to win the point with a flick over the shoulder before Zahlavova-Strycova missed a backhand.

Watson, who saw the funny side at the time, said: "S mashes are one of my favourite shots, but you could tell I was a little not into the match straight away because the first point of that game I let a ball go that landed mid?court.

"I swear it was going out. But finally I found my feet and I hopefully won't do that again."

Two games later Watson was involved in another unfortunate moment when, at game point, she touched the net with her racquet while hitting what she thought was a winner.

She went on to lose the game but broke serve again in the next game and eventually clinched victory on her third match point after an hour and 35 minutes.

Watson said: "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.

"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 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 h appy with how I played and got through. I'm just keeping focused for the next round."

Watson has a supremely tough task if she is to go any further, with Romanian Halep having rocketed up the rankings over the past year.

They have played once before, in the first round of the US Open last year, when Watson won the first set before Halep fought back to win in three.

The British player, who has now won her first-round match in Paris on three occasions, was in the midst of a post-glandular fever slump that eventually saw her drop outside the world's top 160.

She has responded in brilliant fashion this season and Tuesday's win was her first in the main draw of a grand slam since the Australian Open last year.

Watson said of Halep: "S he's come up through the rankings very quickly. I'm not surprised at that because she's got a good game. She's very solid and makes a lot of balls.

"I played her at the US Open last year. It was a third set. I started on fire, really well, but I kind of crashed and didn't have any energy towards the end. I look forward to play Simona again."

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