March 2, 2020
Rafael Nadal and Heather Watson triumphed in contrasting ways to claim their Mexican Open singles titles in Acapulco.
Watson somehow held her nerve in a dramatic cliffhanger, while Nadal remained imperious throughout.
But the end result was just the same – a super boost to confidence as the season gains momentum.
For the much-loved Spaniard, there was hardly a nervous moment.
Nadal didn’t drop a set all week and the final was no different. He defeated Taylor Fritz 6-3, 6-2 in his first meeting with the 22-year-old American.
Even the powerful Nadal has admitted to psychological insecurities in the past, though.
His loss to Dominic Thiem at the Australian Open may have raised fresh doubts. The giants of the game sometimes remind us that they too are only human.
So Rafa was clearly delighted to put to bed any lingering questions about his start to 2020.
Nadal said: ‘After not competing since Australia, it’s an important week for me and an important moment.
‘I couldn’t be happier, I played great from beginning to end.’
He also reflected on how that his long and illustrious career has come full circle.
Rafa added: ‘Acapulco was the first big title that I won in my career, so to be able to stay here after fifteen years is amazing.’
Indeed it is. Fifteen years at the top. The ultimate tennis warrior is simply incredible.
And we can’t wait to see him at Wimbledon 2020.
The same goes for Heather Watson, who has often struggled for consistency in her career.
But the improving Brit is back in the top fifty after lifting the silverware in Mexico at the end of an epic final.
Watson needed ten match points to get over the line. Her 17-year-old opponent, Leylah Fernandez saved five of those in the second-set tie-break.
To be taken to a decider after so many chances might have caused Watson more turmoil in the past.
But she is in a happy place in her life right now. And that stands her in good stead for the high-pressure moments on court.
So Heather eventually prevailed 6-4, 6-7 (8-10), 6-1 to continue her climb towards the top.
Later she admitted: ‘It was so up and down but I’m so happy to get my fourth title.
‘It was heartbreaking losing the second set…I had to remind myself it was just a tennis match.’
It helps when you have a rock to rely on off-court. And Watson paid tribute to her boyfriend, the Yeovil Town footballer Courtney Duffus.
Heather beamed: ‘He is a super-good influence, the person who has brought calm into my life and my mind.’
The spectacular venue also inspired her. ‘Acapulco is absolutely gorgeous, the environment is lovely.’
And so of course is Wimbledon!
Watson almost beat the great Serena Williams there a few years ago. Could Wimbledon 2020 be a special year for her?
We have a funny feeling she could go far – and fulfil her full potential at last.