Watson claims overdue victory
Heather Watson claimed a morale-boosting victory over American Christina McHale at the ITF tournament in Poitiers on Tuesday.
Having won just one match in two months, the 21-year-old opted to extend her season by dropping down from the WTA Tour and playing one of the biggest events in the second tier.
It looked like her miserable run would continue when she lost the first set against world number 69 McHale and then, after fighting back to level, trailed 4-2 in the decider.
Watson was frustrated and slammed her racquet angrily on the ground on more than one occasion, but she broke serve to level at 4-4 and extended her winning run of games to four to come through 2-6 7-5 6-4.
Like Watson, McHale has been affected by glandular fever, briefly dropping out of the top 100 in August only a year after she had been ranked at a career high of 24.
The 21-year-old turned things around with a run to the third round of the US Open and Watson will hope good results here or next week in Barnstaple can put her back on an upward trend.
Since returning from two months out with the illness at the French Open, little has gone right for Watson, who has won just five matches in those five months.
From a high ranking of 39 in February, she now finds herself down at 133 and facing having to qualify for the Australian Open in January.
The Guernsey player, who is also looking for a new full-time coach, reached the third round in Melbourne last year despite fighting the effects of the then undiagnosed glandular fever.
She admitted in New York that the pressure of trying to defend ranking points was affecting her, and the biggest blow came when her title defence in Osaka earlier this month ended with a first-round loss.
At least Watson knows that she has nothing to defend for the rest of the year, and in the second round in Poitiers she will play Czech world number 156 Lucie Hradecka.