History made by Heather Watson in Osaka

ESPN staff
October 14, 2012

Heather Watson fended off match point against her on Sunday to become the first Brit to win a WTA singles title since 1988.

Watson, at 20 years of age, was contesting her maiden singles championship against Chang Kai-Chen, an opponent targeting exactly the same landmark. Both players wasted match-clinching chances as it went the distance, eventually won 7-5 5-7 7-6(4) by Watson after over three hours on court.

The British No. 1 is currently ranked 63 places higher than her rival and, on that basis, was favourite to win the final, although Chang had toppled No. 1 seed Samantha Stosur to reach the weekend showpiece.

Typical of a Watson match there were multiple breaks of serve, with the youngster taking the first set despite dropping her serve three times. There were 14 breaks in total, shared seven apiece, and the tight nature of the contest was displayed by the 'total points' column, which read 129-129.

Watson was broken a further three times in set two, and this time it cost her as Chang levelled the match. It looked a crucial momentum change as Chang secured her second break with Watson serving for the match at 5-3, before adding another to snatch the set away from her opponent.

It was then Chang's turn to wobble in sight of the finish line, wasting match point as Watson's invention and determination drew the deciding set level at 5-5.

The match, fittingly, was decided by a tiebreaker and Watson's recent record in such scenarios is excellent. Misaki Doi, Maria Sharapova and Sabine Lisicki have all dropped sets to Watson in such fashion over the past month, and she held her nerve again for a historic victory.

The win sees Watson become the first British woman since Sara Gomer to claim a title on the WTA Tour, with Gomer's triumph coming 24 years ago in California.

It also sees Watson leap above Laura Robson in the world rankings, returning her to British No. 1. Robson recently had her own chance to claim a maiden WTA crown but lost in the final of the Guangzhou International.

Watson later returned to court for the doubles final alongside Kimiko Date-Krumm, but they lost 6-1 6-4 to Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears.

The Generali Ladies Linz final in Austria produced a predictable outcome, with Victoria Azarenka too hot to handle for Julia Goerges. Azarenka broke five times to triumph 6-3 6-4 in 77 minutes.

The good news for British women had not quite ended for the day, however, as Anne Keothavong won in the Luxembourg Open against Jasmina Tinjic to continue her progress towards the main draw.

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