update Watson reminded improvements still required
Heather Watson has come a long way in the last six months, but discovered yesterday just how much further she has to go if she wants to achieve her goals.
The British women's No.1 was outclassed 6-3, 6-1 by Agnieszka Radwanska at the Australian Open, an unflattering but not totally misleading scoreline, with Watson well beaten. At 20, however, she is on the up and has a hugely promising career ahead of her.
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A first WTA Tour title in Osaka late last year was a breakthrough moment and she will move to around 40 in the world rankings after reaching the third round in Melbourne.
Radwanska, the No.4 seed, is vastly more experienced so it was always naïve to expect Watson to pull off an upset, not least since she won just two games when they met at Wimbledon last summer, when Radwanska went on to reach her first grand slam final.
There is a lot to like about Watson, with her consistency always keeping her in matches and her fighting spirit seeing her through when others might wilt.
But as Radwanska pulled her around the court and left her for dead with a series of deft drop shots, it was apparent that if Watson wants to make that next step up towards the top 20 and perhaps the top 10, she will need to make improvements.
"I want to continue being aggressive and coming to the net," Watson said. "I just need to learn how to take my chances and play the important moments better because you don't get many opportunities against the top players and have to take them when you get them."
Watson took some umbrage when asked if she needed to add more variety to her game, saying she felt there were similarities between her and Radwanska. "I don't just try to smack everything and only play one way," she said. "I adapt my game to whoever I'm playing. I hit drop shots, I come to the net."
Watson now heads to Pattaya in Thailand for her next tournament before she and Laura Robson, due to play her third-round match against Sloane Stephens in Melbourne overnight, join forces in the Fed Cup.
Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova demolished Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 to take her place in the fourth round. The Russian, seeded second behind Victoria Azarenka, has dropped just four games in her first three matches, the best effort since Steffi Graf did the same en route to the last 16 in 1989.
The former French Open champions Li Na and Ana Ivanovic also made it through to the last 16 with straight-set wins.