Wednesday, May 29, 2013

French Open Early Exits Show Heather Watson and Laura Robson Have More To Learn

After just one round of action the British interest in the 2013 French Open is already over. Andy Murray wasn't able to enter the tournament due to an injury and the interest in the women's side of the draw was ended on Wednesday when Heather Watson lost in three sets to Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele.

Earlier in the week both Laura Robson and Elena Baltacha lost in straight sets during first round losses. A bright group of young British tennis players have come up short on clay in the French Open.

Murray is carrying the baton in men's tennis for Britain. The future looks very bright on the women's side of things as well. However, the early French Open losses, particularly for Robson and Watson, show that the young rising stars of British tennis still have plenty to learn.

Watson's loss to a similarly ranked player was particularly disappointing. The 21-year old hadn't played since April after contracting and recovering from glandular fever.

She spent six weeks recuperating at her home in Guernsey and then returned to the practice court for the past few weeks preparing for Roland Garros. In Watson's defence, it was clear that she was struggling to find her game and lacked recent match practice. Rain delays meant that the match originally scheduled to be played on Tuesday was actually played on Wednesday. Watson struggled right off the bat dropping the first set 6-4 in a scrappy affair. In the second set she showed her overall superiority tying the game up at a comfortable 6-2 victory. Watson's play uncharacteristically dropped again in the third set. Her first serve struggled tremendously and she really struggled to get on top of her opponent getting worn down and eventually losing the third 6-4.

Watson will return to the UK for the grass court season hoping to make an impact, but knowing that she will need to find her match groove again if she is going to make an impact at Wimbledon.

Robson is perhaps as much a victim of her own superb performances this season as anything else. The world number 35 entered the first round of the French against Caroline Wozniacki (world number 10) widely being tipped as a good favourite to cause a major upset. In the end it would take Wozniacki just one hour and 11 minutes to wrap up a straight sets 6-3 6-2 victory. The 19-year old was facing an opponent who had lost five straight matches, but she didn't find any sort of rhythm and several of her bigger, attacking shots simply didn't come off.

Both of Britain's young talents had impressed in the first Grand Slam of the year reaching the third round of the Australian Open. Each has also claimed big scalp victories since then as well.

The good news is that the next Grand Slam isn't far away and it is the tournament where British players receive tremendous support. Murray is expected to compete in that tournament and the crowd will be looking at last year's finalist to break through and win a second Grand Slam. That should provide good cover, at least early on, for youngsters Watson and Robson who should learn important lessons from their French failures.

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