Watson's joy opens new doors for British women tennis players
As the sun faded away at Wimbledon yesterday, journalists and fans were talking about a bright new era for British women’s tennis which might just be peering over the horizon.
With six British women being included in the main draw at the Championships and with Heather Watson becoming the first British female to make it through to the third round for a decade, could there be a positive future for women’s tennis in this country?
Currently the Eastern European are the ones dominating the women’s circuit and there may be as much surprise that Watson has reached the third round with a surname that doesn’t end in –ova. Fitting then that Watson’s next challenge is against the number three seed, Poland’s Agniewska Radwanska.
The short-term effects of Watson and her countrywomen’s success are evident after the LTA reported that there has been a 20% increase in tennis participation over the past year with 177,400 women now taking part in the game.
And with British women continuing to deliver results at the All England Club in 2012, there may just be a fresh outlook on British women’s tennis with rising stars emerging through ten years of gloom.
Tennis writer Christopher Clarey is hugely optimistic about the state of women’s tennis in the UK and insists that Watson’s superb performance may be the first of many:
“Heather Watson 1st Brit woman into 3rd rd at #Wimbledon since 2002 which says lots about plucky Watson (and about British women's #tennis)” - @christophclarey
Women’s tennis in Britain, with Watson currently at the forefront, is also getting a lot of support from people on Twitter who can sense the positivity around the female game in this country:
“Pleasing that women's tennis in Britain is rising up #Wimbledon” - @samsmith05
“Congratulations to Heather Watson on reaching the 3rd round at #Wimbledon major achievement and a step forward for British Women's Tennis.” - @Mark_Bradford70
“Great to see Heather Watson trending such a gutsy young player, great prospect for British Women's Tennis in the future. #wimbledon” - @joanierichardso
But why the sudden improvement in women’s tennis in Britain? Why are youngsters like Watson and Laura Robson now beginning to blossom on the big stage?
Well in 2007, the Blueprint for British Tennis introduced a long-term strategy where there would be concentration on player development, establishing a network of coaching, embedding new sports science skills and ultimately giving players the best opportunity to compete on the international stage.
And certainly it appears that the strategy is now beginning to bear fruit for both the men and women’s games in Britain with an increasing amount of young players competing with the top players in grand slams.
Watson may well be the poster girl to show how well the strategy is working but beneath the surface, something very impressive is growing inside British women’s tennis.