Last year’s runner-up Alison Riske got her campaign off to a strong start at the Aegon Open in Nottingham, defeating British hope Heather Watson 6-2, 6-3.
The world number 43 broke the Brit in the first games of both the first and second sets to take command from the outset. Watson was involved in plenty of the American’s service games and came close to earning break points but could not take care of her own serve to stay with Riske. The wildcard broke back midway through the second set but did not win a game after that as the fourth seed wrapped up victory.
* Article originally published by me for UBITennis.net *
Playing for the third time, it was the lower-ranked of the two players who had the upper hand in their head to head, with Watson winning back in 2015 in the Hobart semifinal 6-3, 7-5. Their only other meeting before that was at an 100k event in Poitiers, with Watson winning 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
The British number two did not get off to the best of starts after a double fault left her 0-40 down on serve. Riske looked very sharp early on and capitalised on her second break point. Watson had half a chance to break back immediately at 30-30 but her opponent was not to be outmanoeuvred on the baseline.
The wildcard looked to be in even deeper trouble down break point in the third game, but a strong serve down the tee staved off the chance as the Brit went to hold and get her first game on the board. The world number 113 had a break point chance on her opponent’s serve in the fourth game but her forehand return of serve could only find the net as Watson continued to trail on the scoreboard.
In the seventh game the Brit recovered from 0-40 down to move to game point but was unable to capitalise. Having worked so hard to get back into the game Watson could not prevent Riske from claiming a double break after she found the line with a cross court backhand winner.
Riske had little trouble serving it out despite Watson fighting back from 30-0 to 30-30 as the America closed with an ace and a forehand winner to wrap up the first set 6-2.
Watson was in need of a good start in the second, particularly with the knowledge that she had been involved in most of her opponent’s service games, but she did not get one. A very untimely double fault gifted Rise an break of serve and she quickly established a 2-0 lead a she had done in the first set.
In the sixth game Watson got the break back she was looking for, closing with an overhead smash winner to level at three games all and spur the crowd on to get behind her. However, staying on serve was not to last long as Riske remained solid from the baseline refusing to break down first in the rally and as a result restored her break advantage.
The world number 113 had a window of opportunity at 30-30 and deuce to try and break back once more but was unable to do so and that proved to be her last stand in the match. Riske broke her opponent’s serve once again to seal victory in one hour and 15 minutes.