Heather Watson rode her “positive wave” to a first grand slam victory for a year at the Australian Open.
The British number two broke a seven-match losing streak dating back to August in Adelaide last week and said after a 6-3 5-7 6-2 victory over Mayar Sherif that she had rediscovered her love for the game during a pre-season training block in Florida.
“I’m really happy to get through this one because the last couple years have not been good for me,” Watson said.
The smile says it all.
— LTA (@the_LTA) January 18, 2022
“I had a great pre-season in Florida and I found my love and joy for tennis and competing again. I feel like the last couple years I felt really anxious before matches, just really not even wanting to go out there, but trying to get over it because I know in sport there’s always ups and downs.
“Today I was excited to play. I couldn’t wait to get out on the court.”
Watson works with veteran American coach Pat Harrison in Florida but has travelled to Australia with a schoolfriend having split from touring coach Alex Ward.
She said of Harrison: “He’s just such a positive person and he has so much love for tennis. We were on the court four hours a day minimum because that’s what he’s like. I got out of shape, like a lot of people in Covid, but I feel super-fit and strong and good about myself.
“I know that maybe in a month or in a few weeks maybe I won’t enjoy it so much because I’ll have a hard loss, but I have that experience to know that it comes and goes, so you’ve just got to ride the wave and I’m riding my positive wave right now.”
Watson will now get another crack at 29th seed Tamara Zidansek, who she lost narrowly to in Adelaide.
Dan Evans joined Watson and Andy Murray in the second round with a 6-4 6-3 6-0 success against David Goffin.
Evans has begun the season in fine form while former top-10 star Goffin has been plagued by injury troubles and retired with a knee issue during a match against Murray in Sydney last week.
Evans began the season with three victories for Great Britain at the ATP Cup before reaching the semi-finals in Sydney and will have high hopes of a good run here.
The British number two also credited a change in his mental approach, saying: “I had a lot of fun at ATP Cup. I wasn’t too hard on myself in pre-season. No point in going after it in the gym when I didn’t have too long to go.
“I have played some good tennis already. Hopefully get some more this week, and you never know.”
Harriet Dart won three matches in qualifying to reach the main draw for the third time in four years only to again find herself drawn against a big gun, this time seventh seed Iga Swiatek, and given a date on Rod Laver Arena.
She suffered the dreaded double bagel against Maria Sharapova in 2019 before a much better performance against Simona Halep the following year.
Dart, ranked 123, made a good start against Swiatek, leading 3-1, but the Pole began to cut out the errors and reeled off 11 games in a row in a 6-3 6-0 victory.
“Of course to play such a champion on a big court, these are the matches you do play tennis for,” Dart said. “At the same time, it would be nice to have a few matches before you get that opportunity.
“But you do find where your level is at straight away against such a big opponent. Hopefully I can put myself in a position where I can do better in these matches and just keep improving my game.
“I really feel that everything is going in the right direction, so that’s something to be really positive about.”