As a gifted tennis star who has been ranked among the world’s 40, it would be fair to expect Heather Watson to choose Andy Murray, Roger Federer or Serena Williams as her sporting idol.
But in fact the 21-year-old Brit names Ronnie O’Sullivan as her inspiration as she strives for success in the tennis world.
A prodigy in her teenage years, Guernsey-born Watson won the US Open as a junior and took the gold medal at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games. After turning pro in 2010, she won her first WTA singles title at the 2012 Japan Open.
Watson reached a career high of number 39 in the women’s world rankings in 2013. She then missed several events suffering from glandular fever but is now working her way back towards the top and won the Dow Corning Tennis Classic in the USA in February.
Wimbledon is just around the corner and Watson is building towards the annual grass-court extravaganza in London. But when she takes time away from the court she enjoys nothing more than following the exploits of five-time World Champion O’Sullivan.
We caught up with her to find out what she loves about Rocket…
Heather, do you remember the first time you watched snooker on TV?
Yes I do. It was only a couple of years ago. My dad was watching it on TV and I came to sit down to watch with him. I asked him “Wow who is that guy? He’s killing his opponent!” He told me it was Ronnie O’Sullivan, the best snooker player in the world.
What is it about Ronnie that inspires you?
I love Ronnie’s attitude and how he is so involved in the game. I admire how hard he works, how he studies the game and how competitive he is. I also like his quirky personality, the funny faces he pulls, but most of all how honest he is about everything.
Do you think there are parallels between snooker and tennis? You are on your own out there…
Absolutely. Tennis might be a little more physical than snooker. But I think mentally you need to dedicate yourself the same amount. You also need a good eye in both of these sports, and you can lose that quickly in a matter of a day or two, so the amount of hours you have to practise in both is comparable. Also nerves and pressure are a big factor in both sports.
Do you have any strategies for handling pressure?
During a match I focus on my breathing which helps me relax and takes my focus off something other than that pressure moment. I also practise hard and give everything every day so that when I do get to those important moments, I know that I have put in the work and that gives me confidence.
How often do you watch snooker on TV?
I don’t watch too much TV, because I’m so busy every day and usually out of the house, but when I do I’m always on the sports channels. If I see Ronnie playing snooker, I will be watching for sure. I actually watched snooker this morning while having breakfast.
Do you play snooker?
No but I play pool. They had pool tables at the Olympics and I was on them every night.
Would you like to watch snooker live?
Absolutely, what’s not to like? It seems as if there is no atmosphere to compare to snooker in any sport. I love the suspense and the competitiveness.