Heather Watson lifted by Sue Barker presence despite Wimbledon exit

Heather Watson lifted by Sue Barker presence despite Wimbledon exit

Heather Watson was grateful for the support of Sue Barker during her match with 10th seed Barbora Krejcikova but left deflated after suffering a first round exit at Wimbledon.

British number five Watson made the last-16 in 2022, her best run at the All England Club, but came unstuck at the first hurdle this time as she went down 6-2 7-5 to former French Open winner Krejcikova on Court One.

Watson was watched from the stands by Barker, who left her role as lead anchor of the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage last summer but promised to return to SW19 to see the 31-year-old in action.

Heather Watson waves goodbye to the Court One crowd after her defeat
Heather Watson waves goodbye to the Court One crowd after her defeat (Zac Goodwin/PA)

While unaware at that time, Watson was delighted to discover she had been in the presence of a true stalwart of the Championships on her 13th appearance at Wimbledon.

“No, I didn’t know. I only look at my box really and there was one young girl on that opposite side that I just, I don’t know, I kept hearing her, so I started fist pumping to her, using her energy, as well,” Watson said.

“I didn’t know Sue was there, but I absolutely adore her. She’s such an amazing person.

“I didn’t know, but I love her. I admire her so much. I think she’s absolutely brilliant. She’s someone I really look up to.

“Yeah, she’s so supportive of me. She sends me messages during the year in support. I’m really grateful for that. I will text her now.”

World number 144 Watson had arrived in SW19 in good form after a strong grass-court season that saw her make the semi-finals of the Rothesay Open in Nottingham last month.

The draw was not kind, however, with 2021 Roland Garros winner Krejcikova having makde the Rothesay Classic final in Birmingham two weeks ago.

Krejcikova immediately came out the traps fast and stormed to a one-sided first set in 35 minutes, before Watson fought back.

She pushed the Czech player all the way in the second, forcing two break points in the ninth game, but they could not be taken and the 10th seed later broke to seal a straight-sets victory.

Barbora Krejcikova put in a fine display
Barbora Krejcikova put in a fine display (Zac Goodwin/PA)

A philosophical Watson admitted: “I feel like I was playing much better this year than I was last year. You know, it just happens with draws sometimes.

“On the day, yeah, she was much better today. She was really, really good. It’s disappointing, because I know how well I’m playing. But I need a little bit of luck along the way.

“I mean initially coming off the court, really upset. I felt deflated, disappointed. I look forward to these moments so much now.

“For it to be over in the first round, this is just not how I envisaged it, not what I want, but it was tough. It was always going to be a tough ask, tough match against, you know, 10th in the world, grand slam champion.”

Watson’s Wimbledon adventure is not over yet, though with the Guernsey ace set to compete in the doubles and mixed doubles.