sport

Watson extends winning streak

Heather Watson made it nine wins in a row with victory over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the first round of the French Open.

The 6-3 6-4 victory at a chilly Roland Garros sends Watson through to a second-round clash with fourth seed Simona Halep, who she had a close match with at the US Open last year.

It is Watson's first victory at a grand slam since she made the third round of the Australian Open in January 2013.

At that time she was already feeling the effects of the glandular fever that would ruin her season, but 2014 has been much more productive and Watson will now climb further from her current ranking of 92.

The 22-year-old has committed to a more attacking style of tennis under Argentinian coach Diego Veronelli and it has been paying dividends.

She has won two titles this season, most recently in Prague last weekend, and came through qualifying in Paris for the third time in her career.

On both those previous occasions, in 2011 and 2012, she had won her first-round match, and the draw presented her with a good opportunity to match that.

Zahlavova Strycova, ranked 63rd, is the sort of player Watson will feel she can overhaul in the rankings, particularly with few points to defend for the rest of the year.

The Guernsey player, cheered on by vocal British support on Court 6, made a flying start, winning the first three games.

She must have sensed it might be her day when, in the third game, she won a point despite a complete air shot on an attempted smash, flicking the ball back over the shoulder before Zahlavova Strycova missed a backhand.

The Czech pulled it back to 3-2, though, helped by a call from umpire Kader Nouni, who ruled Watson had touched the net with her racquet when she thought she had won the game.

Watson eventually dropped serve after a long game but put the disappointment behind her to break again and took the opening set when her opponent drilled a backhand long.

The pair exchanged early breaks in the second set but a time violation appeared to affect Zahlavova Strycova as she dropped serve again in the seventh game.

The Czech saved the first two match points but not the third as Watson clinched victory with a big forehand after an hour and 35 minutes.