sport

Watson happy with improvement

Heather Watson remained upbeat despite another grand slam defeat at the hands of Agnieszka Radwanska on Friday.

The 20-year-old was beaten 6-3 6-1 by the fourth seed at the Australian Open but the scoreline did not reflect the closeness of the last-32 encounter, particularly in the first set.

It was a far better performance from Watson than the rudderless 6-0 6-2 thrashing she received from the same opponent in the third-round stage at Wimbledon last year.

"I felt like I did a lot better this time and the score doesn't really show how I felt out there," she said. "I felt like I was in it and it was a lot closer.

"Last time I didn't really know what I was going to do, but this time I had a gameplan. Next time I am going to have to learn to take my opportunities better and get better at staying mentally tough and focused throughout the entire match."

Watson, who saved three match points against Ksenia Pervak in the previous round, held her own for long swathes of the contest but simply ran into a player who had to much guile and variety.

The Pole has now won all 12 of her matches in 2013 - a run which enabled her to claim the titles in Auckland and Sydney heading into the season's opening major.

Even a second-set rain delay - during which the roof on Hisense Arena was closed - could not halt Radwanska's progress as she advanced to a fourth-round clash with Ana Ivanovic, the winner of the all-Serbian tussle with Jelena Jankovic.

Despite her defeat, Watson can reflect with satisfaction on a good week Down Under - wins against Alexandra Cadantu and Pervak suggesting the 20-year-old from Guernsey is on course to remain upwardly mobile this year.

And she started well here, hitting back from 0-30 down to win the opening game.

She even had chances to claim a 3-1 first-set lead but Radwanska repelled the danger - firstly with a wide serve and secondly when Watson sent a backhand long.

Perhaps sensing the need to raise her performance level, the world number four held and then broke to move 3-2 ahead, her forehand down the line proving a particularly potent weapon.

She claimed the Watson serve once again to move 5-2 up and although Watson got one of the breaks back, Radwanska responded again to take the first set.

Watson, who is ranked number 50 in the world, may have been encouraged by Radwanska having to call the trainer to treat the little finger on her right hand but by then she had already wasted two chances to open the second set with a break.

A missed smash on the first was especially costly but there was nothing she could do but admire the audacity of the drop shot from Radwanska which saved the second.

The injury was to prove nothing more than a minor distraction for the 23-year-old from Krakow.

By now going through her full repertoire, Radwanska was dominant although Watson showed admirable resolve never to give up on the contest.

Watson got on the board in the sixth game but it merely delayed the inevitable as the title contender served it out.

In trying to find positives, Watson was pleased she was not overpowered.

With big-hitting all the rage in the women's game, Radwanska's old-fashioned style - which is not dissimilar to Watson's - has taken her into the top four of the world.

Watson added: "I think it's great that she's got to the top playing such a different game.

"And it's quite refreshing because lots of the girls just want to hit one or two shots, big serve, smack a return.

"It makes it more interesting to play and to watch somebody who builds a point and works a point."

British hopes in the women's draw now rest with Laura Robson, who enjoyed a stunning 11-9 final-set triumph over Petra Kvitova on Thursday. Robson will meet another rising star, American Sloane Stephens, on Saturday.