Heather Watson Ready to Stage Comeback in 2014

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By Nick Howson | December 6, 2013 2:53 AM EST

The year of Andy Murray, Chris Froome, Mo Farah and Tony McCoy was meant to be of Heather Watson. Having ended 2012 ranked 47th in the WTA rankings, two months removed from a maiden tour title success at the Japan Open, the then British No.1 had designs on the top 30 and a seeding at one of the four grand slams.

Those dreams quickly turned into nightmares. Despite a run to the third round at the Australian Open and a contribution in Great Britain's Fed Cup win over Hungary, Watson was diagnosed with glandular fever in April. The come down has been significant.

Just four wins came in the 21 year old's next nine tournaments, a run which included first round exits at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. Now outside the top 100, relegated to the third highest ranked Brit behind Laura Robson and Johanna Konta, Watson faces a brand new year with renewed ambitions.

"I want to get back to where I was in the rankings before I got glandular fever," she told IBTimes UK. "I'm just going to take it step by step and set a lot of mini goals because then the results and the wins will come.

"It wasn't really the year I thought it would be but things happen, and things change. Sometimes you'll hit obstacles and sometimes you'll have a lot of luck on your side and play really well. For me this year I had a bit of a hiccup and it wasn't the most successful year for me in tennis but I feel I've learned a lot. I'm stronger if anything happens like this in the future."

Such is the manner in which glandular fever debilitates the body, the only prescribed recovery approach is rest, and Watson has been taking no chances. Not due to turn 22 until next May, the Guernsey-born player has returned to 9pm bedtimes.

The result has been a full recovery and a return to the court. Semi-final and quarter-final finishes at Poitiers in France and Barnstaple in Devon - tournaments home to tennis fanatics rather than the sport's glamour - show a marked improvement in her physical well-being. Returning, not least succeeding, on a lower tier of women's tennis has instilled optimism for 2014, where she won't take her talent for granted.

"It really took me a long time to get over it because I was still trying to play tennis while I was ill," she added. "I've learned from it and now I'm feeling good so now I'm looking after myself, looking after my body, really taking care of myself because I don't want anything to happen like this again in the future.

"It's all mental. When I started to come back I wasn't winning many matches because I wasn't feeling 100% because I didn't have the energy to. When I did start to feel better I hadn't won many matches so I was finding it very difficult to get around it mentally.

"My game was still there, I just had to be positive and believe I can win. It's so difficult when you don't have the wins under your belt. To finish the year with some wins has definitely helped and boosted my confidence ahead of off-season training and next year."

Now working with Argentine Diego Veronelli - coach of Kei Nishikori - from next season having being coached by Mauricio Hadad and Jeremy Bates in 2013, the world No. 121 has mapped out her return to the summit of British women's tennis. Luck will hopefully ensure 2014 is her year.

Heather Watson is the official ambassador for Statoil's Heroes of Tomorrow Initiative, which sponsors young talented people across sport, culture and education. The investment by Statoil, Norway's leading energy company, to British Tennis includes its sponsorship of the Masters Tennis Tournament at the Royal Albert Hall and its funding of leading grassroots tennis charity Give It Your Max (GIYM). GIYM pays for qualified tennis coaches to teach tennis to children aged between 5-10 years old in the state sector.

To see Heather's involvement with Statoil Heroes of Tomorrow and the work it does with Give It Your Max see the documentary here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfKrqL-4rfg&feature=c4-overview&list=UUbXsOcVwqeMOjazA0QiJ8DQ

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