US Open: Richel Hogenkamp ousts out of sorts Heather Watson

Richel Hogenkamp produced a solid performance to win her first main draw match at the US Open after a straight sets victory 6-2, 7-5 over Britain’s Heather Watson, who was suffering with a stomach bug.

Heading into the match all the pressure was on Watson as the Brit was seeking to reach the second round in New York for the first time. Despite being the higher ranked player in the pairs first meeting Watson knew she would have her work cut out as Hogenkamp was in good form having come through three rounds of qualifying.

Woeful start from Watson

Both women started with comfortable service holds and put each other through their paces in a testing 19 shot rally. The British number two played a couple of loose shots to leave herself in trouble down 0-30 and a forehand into the net resulted in her facing two break points. The Dutch qualifier got off to the perfect start as her opponent missed a backhand volley wide, securing the break without having to do too much work on her side of the court.

Watson looked very out of sorts as she let another service game get away from her with little resistance, allowing the qualifier to move up 4-1 with a double break in hand. The Brit had a slight opening at 15-30 and at deuce in the following game before managing to calve out a break point chance. The Dutchwoman played an exceptional break point, using the drop shot to great effect before putting away a follow up volley. Watson was not to be denied on a second opportunity, striking the ball with conviction to pull one of the breaks back.

Hogenkamp in hot form in New York

Just as Watson appeared to be settling into the match the Brit was soon facing further break points. A surprising miss on the forehand side into the net from Hogenkamp saved one, but a backhand error from the British number two gave back the Dutch qualifier a double break advantage.

Hogenkamp, ranked at 165 in the world, looked full of confidence as she struck three successive winners to hold to love and wrap up the first set 6-2 after 32 minutes.

Similar pattern of play in the second set

At the sit down after the conclusion of the first set Watson looked to be in real distress as she sat down in tears before receiving a medical timeout. Things appeared to be going from bad to worse for the Brit as she faced two break points, but responded superbly, saving the first with a drop shot winner before Hogenkamp missed a service return attempted winner just wide. That reprieve was just what Watson needed as she held to move in front in the second set.

Watson earned a game point opportunity to keep her in front but was unable to capitalise as the Brit produced further untimely errors to fall a break down in the second set. In the sixth game the British number two had two more break points to get level, but produced yet more errors. The world number 165 gave the Brit a lifeline after being let off the hook as she double faulted to gift the break back to Watson.

Back and forth with breaks of serve

Having worked so hard to get back into the second set, frustratingly for the Wimbledon mixed doubles champion she dropped serve again to fall 4-3 behind. Just as she looked down and out the Brit bounced back and began to look like more her usual self, breaking the qualifiers serve once again to level at 4-4. The British number two held serve to move one game away from levelling the match and had two set points, but narrowly missed a backhand on the first before Hogenkamp fired down her second ace of the match. The Dutchwoman spurred herself to secure a crucial hold and level at 5-5 before breaking Watson’s serve yet again to earn the opportunity to serve for the match.

Hogenkamp moved to 30-0 in the twelfth game but Watson struck back to 30-30 to put the qualifier under pressure. The Brit could not back those shots up in the next two points as her game and the match rather petered out. A straight sets win for Hogenkamp 6-2, 7-5, the qualifier goes on to face Timea Babos in round two.

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