French Open 2018: Heather Watson eases into second round with win over Oceane Dodin

Heather Watson and Oceane Dodin
Heather Watson took one hour and three minutes to beat Oceane Dodin (right)
French Open 2018
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 27 May-10 June
Coverage: Daily live radio and text commentaries on BBC Radio 5 live, the BBC Sport website and app.

Heather Watson reached the French Open second round for the sixth time after breezing to a confidence-boosting win over home hope Oceane Dodin.

The British number two had only won once this year before Roland Garros, but impressed in a 6-3 6-0 victory.

Watson, 26, dominated the match as Dodin wilted, although she stuttered slightly in a marathon final game before taking her fifth match point.

French Open 2018: Heather Watson eases into second round with win over Oceane Dodin
French Open 2018: Heather Watson eases into second round with win over Oceane Dodin

She will face 16th seed Elise Mertens or American Varvara Lepchenko next.

Belgium’s Mertens led 6-7 (9-11) 7-6 (7-4) 3-0 before the second day’s play was cut short by heavy rain in Paris and postponed until Tuesday.

“I came out a bit nervy and once I got that out of me I was on fire and played really well,” Watson told BBC Sport. “That’s the best I’ve served in a match for a long time.

“Serving out was tough because it was raining and you could feel it getting harder. You want to get it done but also not rush.

“When you’re trying to serve and you’ve got rain going into your eyes it is tough, plus she stepped up her game.”

Watson’s confidence transformed

In the build-up to the second Grand Slam of the year, Watson had said that she had not paid attention to her run eight successive defeats, saying she was only hearing of it through social media.

That sequence ended with a victory in Nuremberg last week, with Watson adding before her opener against Dodin that she felt she was “not playing badly but things are not clicking”.

With a vociferous British backing behind her, despite playing against a home player, Watson’s words rang true as she produced her finest performance of the year.

Watson, now ranked 80th in the world, lost her opening serve to trail 2-0 but fought back strongly to take the first set in 34 minutes.

She sensed Dodin’s vulnerability as the French world number 139 refused to change her wild-hitting approach, taking the momentum into a second set where she swept her opponent off court.

The only minor blip in an excellent performance came in what proved to the final game, when she failed to convert four match points – and staved off four break points – in an agonisingly long deuce.

With rain starting to fall in Paris, Watson saw the job through, winning 84% of her first-serve points and hitting nine aces in the match.

She says the victory over Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko in Nuremberg lifted the pressure of her losing streak and allowed to play more confidently against Dodin.

“I was so pleased to get through that match against Bondarenko because there had been this losing run, which I hadn’t even thought of until everyone started writing about it, then that started to play on my mind,” she said.

“It was different today – I felt very confident.”

Watson became the second Briton – after Cameron Norrie in the men’s draw – to reach round two, and will now be seeking to reach the third round for the first time.

Compatriot Johanna Konta lost her first-round match on Sunday, while British number one Kyle Edmund is set to open his campaign against Australia’s Alex de Minaur on Tuesday.


Dom Inglot, British Davis Cup player on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

Heather should be really proud of herself. She stuck in there. It came down to first-serve percentage.

When she settled down, she played really well. She was so composed and read the game well.

She did a great job of forcing Dodin to go for too much and took advantage of her weakness of her movement.

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