Superstitious Heather Watson believes a breakfast of eggs and smoked salmon helped her end Britain’s decade-long wait for a woman to reach the third round of Wimbledon.
Watson, ranked 103rd in the world, became the first Briton since Elena Baltacha in 2002 to make the last 32 when she put in a highly impressive performance to destroy America’s Jamie Hampton 6-1 6-4.
The 20-year-old from Guernsey outgunned her opponent in all departments, claiming the first set after just 27 minutes before seeing out a nervy second to record a memorable victory that brought the Court Two crowd to their feet.
Watson is making her third appearance in the full draw at Wimbledon and only won her first singles match at the tournament on Monday night.
The young Briton beamed with delight after her win and revealed afterwards she has adopted two superstitions that have worked well so far.
“I’ve been having eggs and smoked salmon, with toast on the side, for breakfast every morning,” she said when asked whether she had any pre-match rituals.
“And when I get my towel at the change of ends, I run up to pass my ball boy the towel. I have just had those two (superstitions).”
Watson endured several sleepless nights as she prepared for the biggest week of her career.
She has been determined to deliver at Wimbledon following her disappointing experience here last year, when she collapsed to defeat in the first round against Mathilde Johansson.
The 20-year-old clinched the first set against the then world No 70 before suffering an elbow injury which ultimately cost her as she fizzled out.
Watson burst into tears following that loss, but yesterday she smiled brightly when asked about the difference between her feelings now compared to 12 months ago.
“Last year I was probably feeling right down, at the bottom, and now I’m feeling good, I’m right at the top,” she said.
“It was tough last year because I was winning the match and then I got injured early in the second set.
“It was horrible for me because it was my main tournament of the year, but it’s turned out for the better this year.”
Watson’s win is another shot in the arm for the Lawn Tennis Association, who have had to endure criticism over the level of talent in the women’s game.
Watson, who has reached the second round of the French Open for the last two years, showed signs of her potential yesterday when she blitzed into a 5-0 first-set lead.
The youngster was broken twice in the second set, but remained calm to serve out for the match in front of LTA chief executive Roger Draper and Fed Cup captain Judy Murray.
“As soon as that last point was over it was like an explosion of happiness,” Watson said.
“It was a relief for me. All the tension was gone. I just loved it when the crowd was so loud at the end.
“It was an amazing feeling. That’s why I play tennis, it’s for those moments.”
As for the statistic of being the first British woman to get through to round three in a decade, Watson said: “I was completely unaware.
“I don’t really look or think about things like that. I just focus on myself and my next match.”
Watson will play third seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round after she eased past Russia’s Elena Vesina 6-2 6-1 on Court Three.
When asked about the prospect of facing Radwanska, Watson said she was not scared about taking on the Pole, who has made it to the quarter-finals at SW19 twice before.
“It’s definitely not terrifying. It’s exciting,” Watson said.
Anne Keothavong is convinced she and Elena Baltacha have a real opportunity to follow Watson through to round three of Wimbledon today.
Twenty-six years have passed since Britain had more than one woman in round three, and the odds are stacked against either Keothavong or Baltacha making it through.
Keothavong, victorious over Laura Pous-Tio on Tuesday, takes on French Open finalist Sara Errani and Baltacha faces the daunting task of locking horns with Petra Kvitova, although the defending champion looked far from her best in her first-round game against Akgul Amanmuradova on Tuesday.
There is an unusually confident mood in the British camp at Wimbledon this week, however, and the country’s top woman Keothavong is hopeful that Watson will not be the only female Briton left standing.
“Elena plays Petra and I guess that will be a tough match for her, but anyone is beatable on any given day,” the 28-year-old said.
“And I think Petra was struggling in her first-round match.”
An injury to her opponent Karin Knapp helped Baltacha to a 4-6 6-4 6-0 win two days ago, although the Scot had injury problems of her own.
“Probably not” was Baltacha’s response when asked whether she could beat Kvitova, but Keothavong refused to be so negative about her own chances of beating Errani, against whom she has one win and one defeat.
“I’ll go into the next match thinking I have a shot at winning,” Keothavong added. “She’s going to be a tough opponent but I have played her before.”
In the men’s singles, James Ward has the chance to advance to the third round for the first time, although he also faces a tough opponent in 10th seed Mardy Fish.
Ward grabbed the nation’s attention last summer when he made the last four at Queen’s before losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.