If Heather Watson is to flip the script and pull off a spectacular return to form at Wimbledon, she will need to overcome her greatest opponent – herself.
That’s the opinion of former British number one Tim Henman, who believes that Guernsey star Watson has every chance of causing a stir at SW19 but only if she can repair her flaky self-confidence.
The 26-year-old suffered eight consecutive first-round defeats at the start of 2018, falling at the first hurdle in the Australian Open, Miami Open and Indian Wells Masters to name but a few.
But, speaking from experience, Henman is backing the current British number two – who has slipped to No.88 in the world – to battle back.
“For me, I would say the challenge has been between her ears,” he said. “She had a tough period, really, coming through Indian Wells and Miami, and then onto the clay.
“She’s a great athlete, a good tennis player – but she’s struggled with confidence. The most basic form of psychology is to stay in the present tense.
“There’s nothing you can do about what’s gone on. There are elements you can learn from but it’s about focussing on the process and the areas that you’re working on trying to improve.
“Then it’s implementing that on the match court – breaking it down a set at a time, game at a time, point at a time, shot at a time.
“Hopefully, Heather can get back to those basics mentally and if she does that, then I’m sure she’ll get back to winning ways as well.”
Having first tackled Wimbledon back in 2010 as a wildcard entry, Watson’s best effort in the women’s singles is a trio of third-round appearances – in 2012, 2015 and last summer.
However, in 2016, she tasted mixed doubles glory alongside Finnish partner Henri Kontinen, the pair defeating Robert Farah and Anna-Lena Grönefeld in straight sets in the final.
The weight of expectation placed on the shoulders of Watson – who faces veteran Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the first round of the singles – and her fellow Brits in a few days’ time will be as huge as ever.
But Henman, four-time semi-finalist in the men’s singles, doesn’t expect her to shrink under the pressure.
“She’s sort of got out of that rut. She had a couple of wins and I think grass is a good surface for her,” said the former British court king.
“She enjoys the atmosphere of playing at home, so I’m really looking for her to build some momentum over the grass-court season.
“Her attitude and confidence; she’s thrived in that. Sometimes, it can be a little bit intimidating when you’re playing on the biggest stage at home and the expectation that goes with that.
“But I think she has the experience. She’s played at Wimbledon plenty of times and hopefully, it can inspire her to better performances.”
Tim Henman was speaking at The Jaguar Championships as part of Jaguar’s partnership with David Lloyd Clubs. Visit http://www.jaguar.co.uk/jaguar-range/f-pace/index.html to find out more about the F-PACE, the Official Car of The Championships, Wimbledon
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