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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Watson similar to Hingis - Sears


British teenager Heather Watson has been compared to former world number one Martina Hingis following her triumph in the US Open girls' singles.

The 17-year-old beat Yana Buchina to win her first junior Grand Slam title.

"Heather reminds me of Martina Hingis at that age," said head coach of women's tennis Nigel Sears.

"She is a well-balanced player who anticipates well, has great footwork and instinct for the game. She's a very complete, all-round player."

Although Hingis had already won four Grand Slam singles titles by the time she was the age Watson is now, the Swiss was considered a rare exception and Watson looks capable of going far in the women's game.

The British number one reached the last eight at the Australian Open junior event in January and won her first senior title at a $10k tournament in Frinton in July.

Watson, seeded 11th at Flushing Meadows, claimed a 6-4 6-1 victory over Germany's Buchina in one hour and 25 minutes, breaking serve on six occasions and making 58% of first serves en route to a commanding triumph.

She also beat number two seed Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand, the 2009 Wimbledon girls' singles champion, in the quarter-finals.

"I'm so pleased for Heather, she's been a good player for a while," said Sears. "This win - and the $10,000 event she won in the summer - will really help her to believe that she has so much more success to come."

Sears has overseen a steady rise in British women's tennis since joining the Lawn Tennis Association in 2006.

Anne Keothavong climbed to number 48 in the world before dropping back to 70th, Elena Baltatcha and Katie O'Brien sit on the cusp of the top 100 and Mel South is 151st.

Meanwhile, 15-year-old Laura Robson won the Wimbledon girls' singles in 2008 and is widely regarded as one of the most promising young female players around.

Watson's victory makes her the third British player in the last five years to hold a junior Grand Slam title after Andy Murray lifted the US Open boys' singles title in 2004 and Robson - a beaten semi-finalist in New York on Saturday - triumphed at the All England Club.

The right-hander from Guernsey has developed her game at the renowned Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida, which has produced world number ones such as Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Boris Becker, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova.

"At 12 I decided, because I live on a small island and there aren't many places to train, that I'd go to a tennis school, and we started to look around in England and France and Spain, and also we went to Bollettieri," stated Watson.

"When we went there, I decided that's where I wanted to go. The weather is very convenient. I like that there were a lot of people, a lot of competition, and just the structure of how things worked."

Watson is sure to now attract growing expectations, particularly given that at the age of 17 she will be expected to make an impact on the WTA Tour before long, even though she is presently ranked outside the world's top 700.

Watson's said she plans to play "mainly women's tournaments and maybe a couple of juniors", with a tournament in Canada first on her agenda before she returns to the UK for a $50,000 event in Barnstaple, starting on 5 October.

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