Fighting-fit Watson set to rise up ranks

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Heather Watson hugged the baseline like a safety blanket, hating what zipped by in a blur.

As she slipped to an ignominious first-round Wimbledon exit last summer, disorientated Watson fought in vain against glandular fever’s debilitating grip.

Commanding the court’s heart 12 months on, Watson stalks the net with a bill of health, a new coach – and a new game plan.

If impatience ruined 2013, Watson is adamant courage will continue to catapult her back up the world rankings.

“I think this surface rewards the brave,” said Watson. “It’s a very quick surface and the points are quick, too, so your first few shots need to be very precise and very aggressive.

“I think I’m now doing what I need to do to push myself back up the rankings ladder, to push towards my big goals.

“I’m more aggressive now, I’ve changed my style, and that’s what I think will get me to the next level.”

Hindsight reveals Watson ploughed back into action with neither the health the preparation to thrive last summer.

Her straight-sets loss to American Madison Keys hit hard – but so too did the lessons.

The Guernsey-born 22-year-old will start Wimbledon ranked 92 in the world, in the top 100 for the first time this season.

Argentinian coach Diego Veronelli has overseen a resurgence that has included two titles and a nine-match winning streak, only ended by Simona Halep.

The rejuvenated Romanian progressed from that second-round victory to the French Open final: ambitious Watson will not hail defeat, but is confident of an upward curve.

“Last year feels so long ago, it’s almost a blur in my head now I think, because I’m just a completely different person now. I didn’t really want to remember last year but I’m enjoying my tennis and playing a lot better.”