Defending WTA Osaka champion Heather Watson out in the first round

Steven Webb in WTA 7 Oct 2013
Heather Watson will fall over 40 places in the WTA rankings following her straight sets loss to Monica Puig.

Heather Watson’s HP Open title defence ended one hour, 33 minutes after it began.

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That’s how long it took world number 48 Monica Puig to beat the Brit on Monday. The Puerto Rican broke twice in the first set and recovered from 0-3 down in the second to register a 6-4, 6-4 victory in Osaka. 

While it was a confidence-boosting result for Puig, one of the tour’s rising stars, it spells disaster for Watson. The Guernsey native saved match points in last year’s final to win her maiden WTA title, becoming the first British woman in 24 years to hoist a trophy. She earned 280 ranking points in the process, but her failure to defend any of those in 2013 means that she will tumble out of the top 130 next week. Moreover, she will be replaced by Johanna Konta as British number two. It is a distressing scenario for a player who climbed to 38th in the WTA standings at the start of the year. 

Watson’s woes began in April when she was diagnosed with glandular fever, which left her desperately short of energy on court. She sat out the clay season in order to recover, but found the going tough on the comeback trail, winning just four of 12 matches during the summer. More recently, she lost in the first round in Seoul and Beijing and failed to qualify in Tokyo. The first round loss in Osaka effectively ends her season, and means she might have to qualify for the Australian Open in January. 

There was better news for another struggling player at the HP Open on Monday. Sam Stosur, the 2009 champion in Osaka, beat Johanna Larsson 6-4, 6-2 to keep alive her hopes of ending 2013 inside the top 20. The Aussie didn’t face a single break point during the one hour, eight minute contest.

Elsewhere, Eugenie Bouchard continued her excellent form with a 6-3, 6-0 dismissal of Varvara Lepchenko. The Canadian, currently the highest-ranked teenager on tour, saved five of Lepchenko’s six break point opportunities and converted five of her own. After a quarter-final appearance in Tokyo and another strong performance in Beijing, Bouchard is aiming to finish her Asian Swing on a high note.

There are a couple of intriguing matches on Tuesday’s order of play in Osaka. Hotly tipped 16-year-old Belinda Bencic, winner of two junior Grand Slams this year, will aim to win just her second main draw WTA match when she takes on American up-and-comer Lauren Davis. The big match of the day on Centre Court is the clash between British number one Laura Robson and local favourite Kimiko-Date Krumm. The Japanese legend is 24 years Robson’s senior, but ranked just 12 places below her. Their head-to-head stands at one win apiece.

WTA Osaka round one results, Monday 7th October

8-Monica Puig (Puerto Rico) beat Heather Watson (Britain) 6-4 6-4   

3-Samantha Stosur (Australia) beat Johanna Larsson (Sweden) 6-4 6-2 

4-Eugenie Bouchard (Canada) beat Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 6-3 6-0

Kurumi Nara (Japan) beat Caroline Garcia (France) 6-3 6-2

Misaki Doi (Japan) beat Silvia Soler-Espinosa (Spain) 6-1 6-2

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Defending WTA Osaka champion Heather Watson out in the first round

Defending champion Heather Watson lost in the opening round of the HP Open.

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