'Heather Watson deserved to win' - Serena Williams after coming through titanic match
Published 03/07/2015 | 19:47
Heather Watson came within a whisker of one of the great Wimbledon upsets, but was unable to stop Serena Williams' march towards the calendar grand slam.
Watson faced down the biggest match of her career forcing herself to believe "everybody's human" when taking on 20-time grand slam champion Williams.
The 23-year-old was so close to realising that mantra, pushing the reigning Australian and French Open queen the distance only for Williams to prevail 6-2 4-6 7-5 and set up a last-16 tussle with sister Venus.
An almost-tearful Serena Williams left Centre Court admitting Watson "should have won the match".
"She was playing so good there was nothing I could do," Williams told the BBC.
"She played unbelievable and really I think she should have won the match. She was up two breaks (in the final set).
"She really gave her all."
Modern great Williams, still just on course to land all four major trophies in the same season, believes Watson must aim for tennis' very top.
When asked if world number 59 Watson can crack the top 20, Williams said: "Absolutely, even beyond the top 20.
"She's playing really well.
"I think she should set her goals higher because she can definitely do better."
Watson will be left to rue breaking Williams' serve three times in a compelling final set, only to lose out once the 33-year-old recalibrated after a patchy performance.
Williams has plenty of form for dramatic antics in any case, rallying from a set down for victory four times en route to this year's French Open crown.
Even in the Roland Garros final Williams dropped the first two games of the final set against Lucie Safarova, but still hit back, claiming six games in a row for her 20th grand slam triumph.
Watson touched the very fringes of one of the great Wimbledon upsets but still fell in the end - and that after Williams had blasted to the opening set in just 25 minutes.
Watson upended Williams' commanding opening with dogged tenacity, stunning her perplexed opponent who started remonstrating with herself at times mid-point.
Williams' customary war cries - the clear sign she is in trouble - became more frequent and desperate as she clutched at, then conceded the second set.
Watson grew in stature and confidence throughout, and finally Centre Court united to back the home favourite, despite many cheering for Williams in the early stages.
Guernsey native Watson pushed to the very brink of a remarkable triumph, even serving for the match, but when it came to the ultimate crunch, this season's real Serena Williams stepped forward.
The crux of both set and match came when Watson fended off five break points when chasing a four-love third-set lead - but could not protect a sixth.
Williams unleashed a primal roar when setting up her fourth break point but needed two more to start her comeback.
Williams rallied from 40-0 down to break Watson again and level the set at three games apiece but still Watson refused to buckle.
A tetchy Williams was forced to defend another break point in the very next match but this time held firm.
Watson produced a robust service hold to level the set at four games apiece, rebuffing Williams once more.
And then the gutsy Brit broke her opponent for the third time in the set, stunning the five-time Wimbledon winner.
That left Watson to serve for the match. The pressure peaked when Williams claimed two break points, only for Watson to rally to deuce.
Williams grabbed a third break point - so Watson blasted an ace.
The fourth break point proved one too many however, Williams wrestling level once more.
The champion in Williams finally surfaced as she produced a brutal service game to love, before converting a third match point to set up that meeting with her big sister.
How British a performance to trade triumph for defeat; but Williams was right when challenging Watson to set higher aims than the world's top 20.