Watson becomes first British women tour winner for 24 years, while Murray falls just short
Heather Watson has become the first British woman to win a WTA singles title in 24 years when she beat Chang Kai-chen in the final of the Japan Open 7-5 5-7 7-6 (7-4).
The 20-year-old failed to capitalise on a golden opportunity in the second set when, a break of serve up, she was able to serve for the match at 5-3. After a spirited fight back from Kai-chen, however, the match was tied at one set apiece, and Watson was forced to mount her own comeback as Kai-Chen had four match points during the third set.
The final would eventually be decided on a tie break, which Watson won relatively comfortably at 7-4. She becomes the first British woman to win a women’s tour tennis singles title since Sara Gomer in 1988, four years before Watson was born.
“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 practised so hard, ran all those miles and lifted all those weights, for moments like this.”
Watson went one better than compatriot Laura Robson, who became the first British woman to reach a final since 1990; Watson’s win will lift her over Robson to 50 in the rankings to establish her as the British number one.
“When I was three match points down and she was serving for the match at 5-4 40-0, I just thought “Oh no, I had this, I was so close”, she said. “But I just took it point by point and I don’t know how I did it, but I did.”
Not long after beating Kai-Chen, Watson was back on the court, attempting to become the first Briton to clinch both the singles and doubles at the same WTA tournament since Anne Hobbs did it in 1985. She and her partner, Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan, would lose the final 6-1 6-4 to United States pair Abigail Spears and Raquel Kops-Jones.
Andy Murray was less successful in his pursuit of a hat-trick of consecutive titles at the Shanghai Masters however as he was defeated by Novak Djokovic in another topsy-turvy final that ended 5-7 7-6 (13-11) 6-3.
Having narrowly won a first set that featured seven breaks of serve, Murray, like Watson, had the opportunity to wrap up the match in two sets, but a stubborn Djokovic characteristically refused to concede defeat as he saved five match points en route to winning the second set tie break.
The Serbian carried that momentum in the third set and, at 3-3 in the decider, the 25-year-old broke Murray twice to end a dramatic final.
“It was a thrilling match [and] very long,” he said. “Three and a half hours for best of three is quite long. But I have got used to it. Whenever I play Andy, I know it’s going to be a gruelling fight with a lot of long rallies. It could have gone either way.”
Murray praised his opponent in what he described as a “top quality match”: “I’ve lost tougher matches than that before and I’m sure I will recover,” said the Scot.
“It was literally the difference of one, two centimetres [between] winning the match and losing it. You have to put things into perspective. It was obviously a bit frustrating but it was so close and could have been a different outcome.”
Theo Chiles, Tennis correspondent