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Heather Watson breaks third-round barrier seven years after Serena Williams epic

Heather Watson celebrates victory against Kaja Juvan (Zac Goodwin/PA)
Heather Watson celebrates victory against Kaja Juvan (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Heather Watson finally buried the ghost of her agonising defeat by Serena Williams seven years ago by reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon.

Watson made the second week of a grand slam for the first time after a drama-filled win over Kaja Juvan.

Playing at her 12th Wimbledon and in her 43rd major tournament, the British number four thrilled Court One with a landmark 7-6 (6) 6-2 victory.

Wimbledon 2022 – Day Five – All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Heather Watson is bound for the fourth round (Zac Goodwin/PA)

The closest Watson had previously come to the fourth round was here in 2015, when she served for the match against Williams but lost 7-5 in the third.

Upon hitting the winning volley, Watson raised her arms in the air before kneeling on the turf with her head in her hands.

“I was thinking that I’ve made it to the fourth round of Wimbledon for the first time, because that has been a goal of mine for, like, 10 years,” she revealed.

“The closest I was to that was my match against Serena, I was two points away there.

Tennis – 2015 Wimbledon Championships – Day Five – The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Watson lost narrowly to Serena Williams seven years ago (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“That was the first time I think I’d set that goal for myself then. That year was to reach second week of a grand slam.”

Slovenian Juvan, at 69 ranked 40 places above Watson, was a dangerous opponent who had beaten the highly-fancied Beatriz Haddad Maia in round one.

But the 21-year-old folded after Watson edged a nerve-ridden first-set tie-break, while the confident Briton won 11 consecutive points as she raced into a 5-0 lead in the second.

There was a Watson-esque wobble at the death – “It wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t a bit of drama at the end” – but she got over the line with her first match point after five tense deuces.

She may now be 30 and outside the world’s top 100, but from out of nowhere Watson is suddenly enjoying the summer of her career 12 years after her Wimbledon debut.

Her run is all the more remarkable given she suffered a hamstring scare in the build-up to this year’s Championships.

“I was thinking that after the match,” she added. “With my preparation in the grass-court season, I had my hamstring, I didn’t have much prep going into Eastbourne, but I wanted to play anyway.

Wimbledon 2022 – Day Five – All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Watson beat Kaja Juvan in straight sets (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“I’m a real confidence player so going into Wimbledon without those matches under my belt, you know, I didn’t expect it.

“But then again, I didn’t look too far ahead. I only just took it one match at a time. Once you get through that, it gives you a bit of confidence, then it just keeps growing from there on.”

Watson can at least treat herself to a day off – doubles notwithstanding – after achieving the rare feat of playing singles on each of the first five days this week, as her previous two matches carried over from the day before.

She will face Germany’s Jule Niemeier, the world number 97, for a place in the quarter-finals.

Watson returned to the court for her first-round doubles match with Harriet Dart, and the British duo beat Emina Bektas and Kristina Kucova 6-2 6-4.

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