She put up the fight of her life.
She gave new hope to British women’s tennis after coming within a whisker of beating world No.1 Serena Williams at Wimbledon on Friday.
Watson led 3-0 in the final set before eventually losing it 7-5, but Williams tipped the world No.59 to break into the top 20 after her “unbelievable” performance.
The comparatively diminutive Watson walked out onto Centre Court brimming with fire and determination.
Refusing to be intimidated, the British number one fed off the jubilant crowd. She lost the first set in 25 minutes but then clawed it back, equalising with the second set.
“Jeepers creepers” declared the BBC commentator as Watson continued to edge ahead, defying all expectations.
As the crowd roared, she rose to the challenge. Even Williams, 33, applauded her when she hit one particularly astonishing shot.
At one point, she was just two points away from winning.
Williams almost let it get to her. At one point, she complained to the umpire that the crowd was too loud and was putting her off.
But she composed herself and eventually pushed ahed, winning the third set 7-5.
After the match, Williams admitted it was one of the toughest matches she had ever played on Centre Court and said Watson could easily break into the world’s top 20.
“I think she played unbelievable,” she said of her opponent.
“She should’ve won the match. She really played her all and showed what a great player she is.”
Her mother, Michelle Watson, said: “I’m very proud. Serena is the best female player ever. The crowds were amazing and supported her and it was so close but what can I say, she’ll just play.
“She’ll be happy with her performance. But despite that she didn’t win, she broke quite a few times. It’s not easy returning Serena’s serve because it’s as big as the man’s and I thought she levelled with her.
“It’s just progress. You want to be able to prove you can play a good match and she did that today.”
Andy Murray, the former Wimbledon champion, also showed his appreciation. “Retweet if @HeatherWatson92 just made you feel really effing proud! Favourite if she made you feel really effing proud!” he wrote on Twitter.
A clearly devastated Watson admitted she was “pretty disappointed” with the loss but said the crowd had been amazing and that it had been the best atmosphere she had ever played in at Wimbledon.
“It was just so close,” she said of Williams. “I just feel that when she needs to hit a winner, she’ll just do it. And that’s what she did.”
Watson was privately educated at Melrose Ladies’ College in Guernsey, where she lived with her parents Michelle and Ian, the former managing director of Guernsey Electricity, and three siblings.
She started playing tennis at the age of seven and five years later, moved to Florida to attend the famed Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, which cost her parents their life savings.
She chose not to attend university so as to to focus on her tennis career, and has said her Plan B career would be as an interior designer.
In 2008, Watson’s devoted mother left her job to travel the junior circuit with her daughter.
Mrs Watson was at the centre of the player’s box on Friday, yelling for all she was worth. The player’s 85-year-old grandmother. Jean, has also been at Wimbledon this week, declaring after her second round victory that she was so proud she was going to go home and yell about it from the top of Blackpool Tower.
Watson recently split with her boyfriend of two years, Phil Stephens, an investment banker, a former junior tennis player.
But she has moved on and is said to be happily single. Last year, she purchased her own house in south west London.
“I’ve recently got my own place and I’m going to have to start paying bills now,” she said when asked about her £77,000 winnings for reaching the third round. “So this will help, I guess.”