• Australian Open

Watson scrapes through final qualifier

ESPN staff
January 11, 2014
Watson struggles to hide her relief after qualifying for the Australian Open © Getty Images

Heather Watson has qualified for the main draw of the Australian Open after edging past American Irina Falconi 6-4 7-6(1).

The British No. 3 will play 31st seed Daniela Hantuchova in the first round of the tournament proper.

Watson, who suffered from glandular fever at the beginning of last year - an illness that blighted much of her 2013 season - was visibly relieved with her victory.

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"It would have been the end of the world if I didn't get through," the 21-year-old world No. 120 said. "I'm very happy that I am through but this is where it starts. I've just got over that first hurdle and there's a long way to go yet."

Watson is defending significant ranking points in Melbourne, having reached the third round last year.

And she looked nervous in the first set when she failed to serve out the first set at 5-4 - before clinching it with a smart backhand slice in the following game.

Watson recovered an early break in the second before three aces saved break points at 3-3. But she failed to take advantage of two match points.

But Watson was not the only player faltering, as Falconi missed a chance to take the match into a deciding set with a double fault and Watson won seven straight points to cruise through the tie-break.

"It was a very tricky match," Watson added. "She's not you're usual WTA player. She slices a lot, she's got good hands, good touch, she's not the overpowering type.

"I was prepared for it but I was torn between, 'Do I go for it, or do I make her play?' I was finding it difficult to find the balance but I held my nerve at the end - at the very end.

"I got a bit nervous closing it out but it's last round of qualifying; there's a lot on that match."

Watson joins Andy Murray and Laura Robson as the only British representatives in the Australian Open singles.

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