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Watson falls at French Open first hurdle

ESPN staff
May 29, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »

British interest in the French Open ended on Wednesday as Heather Watson was beaten in three sets by Stefanie Voegele.

In what was her first match since March after being struck down with glandular fever, Watson showed only brief flashes of her busy self as she was beaten 6-4 2-6 6-4.

With Elena Baltacha and Laura Robson bowing out in the first round and Andy Murray absent due to injury, it is the first time since 2007 that Britain has not had a representative in the second round of the singles at a grand slam.

Watson made a bright start, holding her opening two service games and striking the ball crisply on the forehand wing. However, Voegele was equally impressive and offered great power and consistency.

It was consistency that proved key in the first set as errors crept into the Watson game as the stanza progressed. A double fault and forehand errors handed the break to Voegele. The Swiss backed up the break with a love hold and subsequent strong service game, which piled the pressure on Watson.

The British No. 2 saved a set point in the ninth game despite almost coughing up a double fault when her second serve hit the top of the net and crawled over. But errors continued to fly off the Watson racket and after the 12th of the set handed Voegele the advantage, she crashed her racket into the court in frustration.

Watson saved four break points in the opening game of the second set - including one with an ace - to keep herself above water. And the hold appeared to spark Watson into life. She opened the following game with a deft drop shot and a brilliant backhands return of serve secured the break of serve.

Heather Watson is out of the French Open © AP
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Watson gifted the break back to Voegele, but the Brit steeled herself to wrestle the advantage for a second time and back-to-back aces handed her a 5-2 lead. And with the bit between her teeth, Watson forced a further break of serve to level the contest.

Voegele went off court for a lengthy comfort break at the end of the second set and the delay appeared to stall Watson's momentum as she was broken at the start of the final set.

The impressive serving from Voegele in the first set, which deserted her towards the end of the second, returned in the third. Watson kept fighting and a love hold in the fifth game kept her within touching distance of her Swiss opponent.

Watson's chances came in the eighth game as blistering winners on both wings earned her break points. On three occasions Voegele staved them off and she grittily held serve to move within one game of victory.

To Watson's credit she held to ask the question of Voegele but she was up to the task and victory was sealed when Watson sent a big forehand wide of its target.

Voegele will face Kaia Kanepi in the second round following the Estonian's win over No. 23 seed Klara Zakopalova.

The No. 3 seed Victoria Azarenka had no trouble in advancing, beating Elena Vesnina 6-1 6-4. Azarenka will face Annika Beck in the second round following her easy win over Sandra Zahlavova.

The 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was given a stern test before seeing off local favourite Aravane Rezai in three sets. Her reward is a meeting with Shuai Peng.

Maria Kirilenko, seeded 12, brushed aside Nina Bratchikova and will face Ashleigh Barty in round two following her three-set win over Lucie Hradecka.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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