Tramlines

Perfect storm brewing for British tennis

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Front page of the Daily Telegraph sports section

The WTA Osaka event may not get the pulses racing for the average tennis fan but it certainly became a big deal in Britain when Heather Watson battled past Taiwan's Chang Kai-Chen to become the first British woman to win a WTA event in 24 years.

England have a big football match against Poland on Tuesday but the main sports story in many of the British papers on Monday was given over to Watson.

In particular, the quality newspapers went gaga over the Guernsey girl's triumph with huge pictures of Watson's beaming smile adorning the front pages of the sports sections in The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Guardian.

British tennis fans might be saying to themselves, 'uh oh….here we go again'- bemoaning the fact that there is a tendency for the British media to build up potential stars as guaranteed sure things, only for that added pressure to then contribute to the stalling of their progress.

However, this time it really does feel like there is a perfect storm brewing for British tennis that can leave fans rightly optimistic.

For a start, Watson and Laura Robson are emerging as forces at exactly the same time. Robson, who at 18 is two years younger than Watson, also produced a landmark performance in Asia just last month as she became the first British woman to reach a WTA final since Jo Durie in 1990 when making the decider in Guangzhou.

The two young British girls are friends off the court and the fact that they are both experiencing similar pressures and challenges at a similar time can only help them.

Sharing the burden of a nation must make it easier to cope and then of course there is the case of Andy Murray who deflects away even more of the media hype.

With Murray having now won a Grand Slam too, talk of British players being chokers and 'not up to it' has to be finally dismissed.

The reputation of British tennis has been thrown under the bus repeatedly for years, and often rightly so, but moments like Watson's victory in Osaka and Murray's win in New York are occasions to savour and to enjoy. Now is not the time to be a pessimistic naysayer.

The future is bright, the future is British.

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Here is how some of the top tennis writers covered Watson's win.

The Guardian: At long last — Watson ends 24-year drought.

Simon Chambers: Until Sunday, the last time a British woman won a WTA Tour singles title, the Berlin Wall was still standing, Margaret Thatcher was prime minister and Heather Watson was a good four years away from even being born. It has been a long 24 years since Sara Gomer won her title in Aptos, California but now Britain has another female champion after Watson won a nail-biting battle with Chang Kai-cheng of Taiwan to win the Japan Open in Osaka...There is a long way to go to make it from the top 50 to the top 10 and be contending for the sport's four biggest titles, Wimbledon, the US Open, French Open and Australian Open. Both Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong have enjoyed brief spells inside the top 50 in recent years. It would be a surprise, though, if Watson and Robson do not far exceed their achievements.

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The Times: Elementary: dear Watson solves riddle of British tennis failure

Neil Harman: In Osaka, Japan, yesterday, the game was able to cross another of the "can't dos" from the list that had been a millstone around its well-funded ambitions. Before July, Britain had not enjoyed a Wimbledon men's singles finalist in 74 years, a men's doubles champion had been more than seven decades in the finding, it had been a century since we had unearthed an Olympic gold medal-winner and a men's Grand Slam champion...we had all but given up on that after 76 years. Now, those in the British game are wandering around in a rare giddy state, made more intoxicating when Heather Watson won the HP Japan Open yesterday. And she was not on the sauce.

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The Independent: At Last…

Paul Newman: As Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski always said, having a compatriot as a rival can only be good for you. Heather Watson and Laura Robson, aged 20 and 18 respectively, have a closer friendship than Henman and Rusedski ever enjoyed, but their rivalry is already helping to drive them both to greater heights. Robson was the first to win a junior Grand Slam title, at Wimbledon in 2008, with Watson following suit at the US Open. Robson was the first to reach a WTA final and now Watson has become the first to win a title. If both can continue to work hard and stay injury-free, there are many years of healthy rivalry ahead.

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The Telegraph: Best of British

Simon Briggs: The styles of the two women could hardly be more different. Robson is blessed with a cannon of a left-handed serve and heavy groundstrokes, while Watson is a more compact player with excellent footwork and high levels of consistency. Still, they are both working to fill in the gaps in their own game, as well as to develop the sort of mental resilience that marks out a potential Grand Slam champion. Watson certainly showed plenty of fight yesterday when Chang stood on the verge of victory in the deciding set.

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Was this really necessary Daily Mail???

There seemed like plenty of positive angles you could take on Watson's win in Japan so Tramlines was quite shocked when it saw how the Daily Mail opened their report on her victory.

From Matt Dickson's report:

"The last time a British woman won a main tour WTA event — Sara Gomer in Aptos, California, 24 years ago — the town was hit by a significant earthquake shortly afterwards. It must be hoped that the same fate does not materialise for Osaka, where Heather Watson ended the wait for someone to emulate the towering Devonian by saving four match points against Chang Kai-chen of Taipei to win the Japan Open."

Tramlines might be reading too much into things, but given Japan's difficult history with earthquakes this seemed like an unnecessarily crass opening angle. We presume it was an innocent mistake from the writer but can't deny it made us wince.

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Sorry we didn't mention you guys!

In red hot form — what more do you need? Well done to Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka on showing their class once again this weekend. We also like that Vika seems to have posed with the Von Trapp family with her trophy in Linz.

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