Fighting-fit Watson set to rise up ranks

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”