Heather Watson insisted playing in front of a pantheon of tennis legends didn’t faze her as her Wimbledon run came to an end.
Wanting to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time, Watson opened Center Court on the day this fabled cathedral of sport celebrated its 100th anniversary.
The great and good Wimbledon winners of the last half century were presented to the crowd and then watched as Watson struggled to regain her form from previous rounds against Germany’s Jule Niemeier.
Niemeier, who is 24 places above Watson, took control of the game before the Legends settled into their padded seats and never looked like defeat, advancing 6-2, 6-4.
“I always push myself enough anyway so I don’t need more when all the players are watching,” said Watson.
“I didn’t see the ceremony because I think I would have found it emotional, especially when I heard the music playing in the background.
“But it didn’t affect me at all, I just stuck to my routine and waited patiently. I’m always nervous coming to Wimbledon but with every round my nerves got less and less, I think because my confidence and confidence is growing.
Watson was the last Brit standing in the women’s singles draw and will have seen this as an excellent chance of reaching a Grand Slam final eight in her 43rd attempt.
Niemeier is playing at this level in her second tournament and has just seven career wins to his name, while Watson is a four-time winner on the WTA Tour, just two years ago.
“I saw this as a great opportunity, I believed in myself and thought I could do it,” added Watson.
“I know if I light it up I can play really well and beat everyone in my day just like everyone on the tour.
“Tennis is so up and down, so inconsistent. One minute you’re doing great, the next you’re in the first round. I think I’m better at being more level-headed.
“I’ll look back on this week and be proud of myself, but right now I’m just a little bit disappointed and depressed.”
Niemeier’s rapid-fire style never gave Watson a chance to settle into the match. The points were kept tight and the rhythm of the game played to the strengths of the German as a power hitter. Watson attempted to force himself into a procedure but was simply met with resistance.
“It felt more like men’s tennis than women’s tennis today,” she said.
“She played really well, especially in that first set, that was very clean tennis, she hardly made an unforced error.
“She served very big and I think it was a big difference. I felt like I was always responding to their ball and never getting on the front foot like I had in my other games.
“It’s hard to find a rhythm against players like her and she just didn’t let up. I did my homework and saw the parts of her game that might have holes, but she just never gave me a chance.
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