They say never meet your hero but Heather Watson came so close to both meeting and beating her hero at Wimbledon.
The British number one famously had a poster of 20-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams on her bedroom wall, as she learned her trade at Nick Bollettieri’s school of tennis hard knocks in Florida.
But there was no signs of stage fright or being star struck in a women’s singles clash that will be hard to better at this year’s Championships.
The results will show her the wrong side of a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 third round scoreline but those stark figures don’t come close to telling the story of this memorable performance, a new chapter in the long legend of battling but beaten Brits at SW19.
“I was two points away from winning that match, so I’m pretty disappointed,” said Watson
“I just saw her as an opponent that was in the way of me and my goals. I just wanted to make the fourth round of Wimbledon and I wanted to win on Centre Court. It didn’t matter who it was against.
“The atmosphere on that court was amazing and I think it really helped me and pushed me and I just wish I could have closed it out at the end.
“I wouldn’t call losing the greatest day of my career but it’s very positive that I put myself in this position. I could have been out first round in this tournament when I was match points down.
“I was super, super close and I think that’s what really hurts the most.”
Watson claimed her first ever win against a top ten player when she beat Agnieskza Radwanska earlier this year.
But top seed Williams on the manicured lawns of the All England Club is a totally different prospect, especially when you consider she’s not lost a Grand Slam match in 12 months.
For historical context, you have to go back until 1979 for the last time a British woman beat a world number one, Sue Barker claiming the scalp of Chris Evert in Boston.
And during a one-sided first set, concluded in a blink and you’ll miss it 25 minutes, that stat never looked like being erased.
But 23-year old Watson, ranked 59th in the world, forced herself into the match during the second set and as unforced errors started to punctuate Williams’ game, she duly seized advantage.
The crowd now started to sense history was beckoning and it was Watson who was starting to swagger, Williams yelling in frustration at the shifting tide of the encounter.
Watson took the second with a break and then raced into a 3-0 advantage in the deciding set, only for the always combative Williams to win four games on the spin to reestablish control.
But Watson secured another break and then had a chance to serve for the match at 5-4 before losing three games in succession as Williams progressed to the fourth round, where she’ll take on sister Venus, in two hours and 15 minutes.
“I gave myself the opportunity to play against the best player in the world and I also gave myself the opportunity to beat her,” added Watson.
“I didn’t take it this time but I’m really glad I was in that situation.
“I just need to use this to motivate myself for the future and know that I can be there, I can compete, and I can be at the top of the game.”
Williams was full of praise for Watson after coming through what could prove to be her sternest challenge of this fortnight.
And she claims it’s only a matter of time before Watson cracks the top 20 and adds to her tally of two WTA Tour titles.
“I make mini goals for myself and I achieve them, then I set them higher,” said Watson.
“My goal for this year is top 25. I’ve dropped a bit because I’ve been very inconsistent but this is a positive week. Hopefully I can become more consistent now and use this as motivation and confidence.”