Heather Watson insisted she wasn’t fazed by playing in front of a pantheon of tennis legends as her Wimbledon run came to an end.
Watson was seeking to make the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam for the first time and opened Centre Court proceedings on the day this fabled cathedral of the sport celebrated its 100th birthday.
The great and good of Wimbledon champions from the last half century were presented to the crowd and then watched as Watson struggled to recapture her form of previous rounds against Germany’s Jule Niemeier.
Niemeier, who is ranked 24 places above Watson, took control of the match before the legends had settled in their padded seats and never looked like losing, advancing 6-2 6-4.
“I always put enough pressure on myself anyway, so I don’t need any more with all those players watching,” said Watson.
“I didn’t watch it the ceremony because I think I would have found it emotional, especially when I heard the music playing in the background.
“However, it didn’t affect me at all, I just stuck to my routine and waited patiently. I’ve always got nerves coming into Wimbledon but as I got through each round, my nerves actually got less and less, I think because my self-belief and confidence grows.”
Watson was the last British woman remaining in the women’s singles draw and will have viewed this as a gilt-edged chance to make a Grand Slam final eight at the 43rd attempt.
Niemeier is playing in her second tournament at this level and boasts just seven career wins, in contrast Watson is a four-time winner on the WTA Tour, as recently as two years ago.
“I saw this as a big opportunity, I believed in myself, and thought I’d come through it,” added Watson.
“I know when I light it up, I can play really well and beat anyone on my day, just like anyone on tour.
“Tennis is so up and down, so fickle. One minute you’re doing great, the next you’re out first round. I think I’m better at being more level-headed.
“I’ll look back and be proud of myself for this week but right now I’m just a bit disappointed and defeated.”
Niemeier’s quick-fire style never allowed Watson a chance to settle into the match. Points were kept short and the rhythm of the game played into the German’s strengths as a power hitter. Watson tried to force herself into proceedings but simply met a brick wall of resistance.
“It felt like more men’s tennis today than women’s,” she said.
“She played really well, especially in that first set, that was very flawless tennis, she barely made an unforced error.
“She served very big and I think was a big difference. I felt like I was always reacting to her ball and never got on the front foot like I had been in my other matches.
“It’s hard to find rhythm against players like her and she just didn’t let up at all. I did my homework and saw the bits of her game that might have had holes but she just never gave me any chances.”
For the latest action on the British summer grass court season, check out the LTA Website