Heather Watson ends her quarter-final drought with win in Thailand – ‘It was just survival of the fittest’

Heather Watson serving

Heather Watson is through to her first quarter-final in 18 months after a marathon three-set win over Han Na-lae at the Thailand Open.

The British No 6 will climb back into the world’s top 150 following a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory lasting two hours and 33 minutes.

Watson, 30, led by a set and a double break before her South Korean opponent found her range and hit back to force a decider.

A break ahead in the final set, Watson hurled her racket in frustration after being pinned back to 4-4.

But she regained her composure to break once more and then finished the job with a superb drop shot on her second match point.

“Really, really tough match today. It was actually a wee bit shorter than my first match, but it felt a lot longer,” Watson said.

“I think because the conditions were really tough today it was very humid. It was just a real physical battle out there. I think just tennis went out the window and it was just survival of the fittest. And I’m just really pleased I could get over the line and serve out when it mattered.

“Absolutely amazing support. They made it so enjoyable to play even though it didn’t feel that enjoyable in the conditions. But yeah, just so grateful for everyone who came out and supported me and I recognised a lot of faces that were here for my first match. So hopefully I’ll be seeing them again tomorrow.”

Watson will face Chinese seventh seed Xinyu Wang, the world number 81, in the last eight and if she comes through that encounter then she will look to book her first final since winning the last of five WTA Tour singles titles at the Mexican Open in February 2020.

Her run Thailand will give her a boost following a disappointing start to the 2023 season as she was knocked out in qualifying at the Australian Open.

The winner of Watson-Xinyu match will face either Tamara Zidansek or Zhu Lin in the semi-final while the top half of the draw remains loaded with a few seeds.

Top seed Bianca Andreescu will face fifth seed Marta Kostyuk in the last eight after the Canadian defeated Anastasia Zakharova 6-2, 7-5.

“She’s a great player. She has many tools in her toolbox that can work well against me,” Andreescu said of Kostyuk.

“What I have to do is stay very focused and positive as much as I can from the start of the match till the end of the match, and I know she can get a bit in her head, so maybe I can watch out for that and use that to my advantage. I know she’s a tough opponent, so I’m gonna give it my A game.”

Sixth seed Tatjana Maria set up a quarter-final clash against Lesia Tsurenko after beating Dayana Yastremska 6-0, 6-4. Tsurenko upset fourth seed Anna Kalinskaya 6-0, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4.