Weary Watson’s hopes dashed by tenacious Tunisian
Ons Jabeur earned a final showdown against Russia’s Daria Kasatkina after winning back-to-back matches at the Viking Classic Birmingham, ending the dreams of Britain’s Heather Watson.
The Tunisian ace booked her third WTA Tour career final at the expense of out-of-sorts Watson 6-3 6-3, following her rain delayed 6-4 6-0 quarter-final win over Russian Anastasia Potapova 6-4 6-0.
Jabeur, who had lost in a third set tiebreak to Kasatkina in the 2018 Moscow Open final and finished runner-up to Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic earlier this year at Charleston, whizzed into the final at the expense of Guernsey girl Watson.
Jabeur dismantled her opponent in 72 breathtaking minutes, running away with the opening set with breaks in the third and ninth games to gain the upper hand. Watson had saved four break points in the fourth game, but when Jabeur won it on the fifth attempt for a 3-1 cushion the writing was on the wall.
But Watson, who only came into the tournament as a late replacement for Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova, bounced back with aplomb. She showed some rare glimpses of fire in her belly during the contest to immediately break no.2 seed Jabeur to lead the second set with a deft drop shot winner to seal the first game.
But Jabeur was commanding the court with agility, tight angles and mixing up her shots to leave Watson looking lost at times. It came as no surprise when Jabeur broke straight back and moved into a comfortable 3-2 lead, before striding towards victory and wrapping up the encounter on her first match point as Watson fired her service return long.
Watson seemed to have run out of steam from her fiercely-fought quarter-final triumph over Croatia’s Donna Vekic 6-4 6-2. That win earned her the accolade of being the first Brit to reach the last four at the Edgbaston Priory’s pre-Wimbledon event since Bristol’s Jo Durie in 1992.
Jabeur will have the chance to become the first Arab to lift a WTA Tour crown, and already claimed a grass court title – albeit on the Challenger circuit – by wine the 2018 Fuzion 100 Manchester Trophy.
Jabeur said after her latest success: “It is tough to play against her [Watson] in Birmingham in particular as she is a tough opponent, but I love playing against her.
“I tried to not waste my time on the court today to save energy, as I knew it was going to be a long day. I played really well in the morning and in the second match I just tried to give it my all and make sure I am ready for the final.”