At this point, the entire tennis world knows of the accomplishments of Serena and Venus Williams at this year’s Championships at Wimbledon, as well as the fact Great Britain’s Andy Murray won his second men’s singles title.
So I want to illuminate the achievement of Heather Watson, who became the first British woman of color to win a Grand Slam title at the recently completed tournament in London, a distinction not mentioned in mainstream media reports.
Teaming up for the first time with Henri Kontinen of Finland, Watson won the mixed doubles championship to claim her first Grand Slam title. She is the first British woman to win a Grand Slam since 1987.
Watson, 24, the daughter of a Papua New Guinean mother and British father, was born in Guernsey, Great Britain, but has trained at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla., since she was 12.
If you follow the Grand Slam events, you may recall how the scrappy Watson nearly denied Serena Williams a second “Serena Slam” last year in the third round at Wimbledon. Watson was two points away from a third-set victory before Serena slammed the door and went on to win her fourth consecutive Grand Slam title.
Even if you were a Serena fan, you had to admire the spirit and fight in Watson, who was amped up by a roaring crowd understandably behind her.
This year, Watson fell in the first round in women’s singles, while Serena won her second consecutive Wimbledon championship — her seventh overall — to match Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam titles.
Three hours after winning the singles title, Serena joined her older sister Venus to capture their sixth Wimbledon doubles title, extending their astonishing Grand Slam doubles finals record to 14 victories and no losses.
It seemed only fitting for Watson to follow her childhood idols in winning mixed doubles, the final match of the tournament. To reach the championship, the unseeded Watson and Kontinen knocked off defending champions Martina Hingis, a Hall of Famer, and Leander Paes, a doubles specialist destined for the Hall of Fame.
If you watched the finals, you might agree Watson was the steadier of the two players on her side of the net. On one point, the ever-smiling Brit wowed the crowd with a highlight-reel-worthy back-handed topspin lob for a winner to hold serve in the first set.
Watson plays a lot bigger than her 5’7″ frame would suggest. She’s an aggressive all-court player with a strong serve for her size. She has won three WTA singles titles since turning pro in 2010, including the Monterrey Open in Mexico earlier this year, and has cracked the top 50 three times.
She currently is ranked No. 65 on the WTA tour. She is the No. 2 British woman player but has been top-ranked on a couple of occasions.
In losing her first-round match in three sets at Wimbledon, Watson squandered three match points. So clinching the mixed doubles title was a sweet comeback for the girl from Guernsey, who even received a letter of congratulations from the town’s bailiff.
And her joy over winning a Grand Slam was quite obvious after the match.
“I can’t stop smiling…I just can’t describe how happy I am,” she told the crowd that included the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton).
Watson said winning a Grand Slam title has been a lifelong dream, and it didn’t matter which category — “singles, doubles or mixed doubles. Yeah, I’ve got one of those now.”