WTA Eastbourne: Heather Watson sends Dominika Cibulkova packing to reach the third round

On Day Two of main draw action at the Premier event at the Aegon International in Eastbourne. Former world number 38 Heather Watson continued to heap pressure on Dominika Cibulkova. The Slovak is currently ranked at number nine in the world, and Watson sent the defending champion out of the tournament in the second round.

The 25-year-old overcame a few nerves in the second set when she needed four match points to dispatch the defending champion. The Brit book her place in the third round where she will face 14th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Elise Mertens. Cibulkova will be worrying heading into Wimbledon as she is on a four-match losing streak, and she has lost all three of her grass court singles matches.


Watson shines in the first set

The Brit is currently ranked at a lowly 126 in the world due to injuries and a loss of form. Nevertheless, Watson needed a wildcard to get into the main draw here, and into Wimbledon. Watson began proceedings on Centre Court, and she held serve with ease. Moreover, the defending champion responded with a hold of serve of her own with a scintillating backhand winner down the line, levelling proceedings at 1-1.

Watson continued to take care of her service games, and she held to love quickly, applying the pressure back on Cibulkova. The Slovak raced out to a 30-0 lead but she faced her break point of the match by committing a double fault. The 25-year-old converted it with a sliced backhand forcing the error from the former top five player to lead 3-1.

Unfortunately, the Brit was unable to consolidate the break as the diminutive Slovak broke back immediately with a strong forehand return of serve, and a crushing forehand winner down the line. The Slovak continued to struggle on her serve, and more unforced errors continued to spew from her racquet. She staved off two break points but a third one arrived quickly for Watson who converted it with a backhand return winner, with a massive help of the net cord to regain the break advantage and lead 4-2.

Cibulkova was get a stranglehold in this contest (Photo by Glyn Kirk / Getty)
Cibulkova was unable to get a stranglehold in this contest (Photo by Glyn Kirk / Getty)

Once again, Watson was unable to hold onto her serve, and there were four consecutive breaks of serve in the match as Cibulkova broke back to love. The defending champion levelled proceedings in the first set, and the first set remained in the balance.

Both players continued to hold serve, and Watson had the vital 6-5 lead advantage in the opening set, and the fourth seed had to serve to stay in the opening set for the second time. The veteran was unable to do that as she lost the first set to love with a tame backhand unforced error, which gave Watson a set advantage in a lengthy 56 minutes.

Watson holds her nerve to record her second top ten victory

The Brit carried on where she left off with her serving as she held to love in the opening game of the second set, and the reigning champion needed to hold serve which she did to level the beginning of the set at one game apiece.

Watson kept her nose in front as she recorded her second successive hold to love and she created two break point chances on the world number nine's serve. Cibulkova saved both of them by virtue of Watson committing back-to-back unforced errors, and
the Slovak finished off the game with an ace out wide.

Furthermore, it could have proved to have been a missed opportunity for the Brit as Cibulkova created a break point chance as she was beginning to be more aggressive in the second set, and move her feet more. The former world number 38 saved it with Cibulkova's backhand sailing into the net, and Watson held serve to keep her nose in front at 3-2.

The Brit wobbled towards the business end of the set but got the job done in the end (Photo by Mike Hewitt / Getty)
The Brit wobbled towards the business end of the set but got the job done in the end (Photo by Mike Hewitt / Getty)

Another break point was created for Watson in Cibulkova's next service game as Watson returned brilliantly by producing a sweet forehand return winner down the line to build up a 0-30 lead, and at 15-40, she broke the defending champion's serve by moving her side to side in a baseline rally, forcing Cibulkova to committed a backhand error.

It looked as though that the diminutive Slovak was going to break back again at 0-30 but she won back-to-back points with an ace down the T and a crosscourt forehand winner down the line. Watson held onto serve with a commanding 5-2 lead, and she was on the verge to record one of the biggest victories of her career.

The alarm bells were ringing for the defending champion as Watson created a match point with a backhand winner out of reach for Cibulkova. The Slovak produced three back-to-back forehand winners down the line to stay in the match and keep her slim hopes of defending the title alive.

Watson created two match points opportunities but she failed to convert them both and she committed another backhand unforced error, to get the match back on serve. The hard work was undone for Cibulkova as she committed more unforced errors, and the title defence was over with a poor forehand unforced error in the net, handing the Brit a sensational, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Cibulkova in one hour and 42 minutes.