Injury problems meant Kontinen’s singles career only took him to world No.220, but since switching to doubles he has won 14 ATP tour titles. It was this expertise that registered with Watson and although they failed to make the French Open last year, and despite limited practice time, they finished their Wimbledon adventure sitting alongside each other on Centre Court, smiles beaming, having become Grand Slam champions.
It turned out to be a final Sunday to remember for British tennis fans last year, with Andy Murray winning the gentlemen’s singles and Gordon Reid and Jordanne Whiley winhttp://www.wimbledon.com/en_GB/newsning wheelchair titles.
Kontinen now has two Slam titles, having partnered John Peers to doubles success at the Australian Open in Melbourne in January. The pair are top seeds in the gentlemen’s doubles and favourites to repeat that success at Wimbledon, and Watson is looking forward to being reunited with the 27-year-old Finn and attempting to win another mixed doubles title.
Watson is hugely motivated to repeat their success. “We are going out to win it again,” she said. “That’s our plan. I have been back to see our names on the Wimbledon honours board and that was a couple of days after the Championships were over. There was nobody there and it already looked so different. It was amazing to see our win on the honours board.
“When we won the final and sat down by the umpire’s chair, I turned to Henri and said, ‘We have just won the Wimbledon title,’ although there was a swear word in there as well! We got a replica trophy each and mine is right there, front and centre, at home and everyone sees it when they come over. My Mum asked for a picture with the trophy which was nice.”
"Henri is an amazing doubles player. We really enjoyed our time on court and we didn’t have any signals - it was all very simple. He tells me what to do and I tell him what to do!" - Heather Watson
The Kontinen/Watson double act had a strange start last year as they received walkovers in the first two rounds before facing Leander Paes and Martina Hingis, the defending champions. Kontinen and Watson won 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 and then had a great battle against the No.15 seeds, Robert Farah and Anna-Lena Groenefeld, before emerging 7-6(5), 6-4 winners. By winning the final, Kontinen became the first Finnish Grand Slam champion, while Watson was the first British woman to win the Mixed Doubles Championship since Jo Durie partnered Jeremy Bates in 1987.
“We couldn’t play at the French Open last year because I knew our rankings wouldn’t be good enough, and that was down to me,” Watson admitted. “Before Wimbledon, there was a chat with Chris Eaton [Kontinen’s British coach] and it was sort of a joke that I should play with Henri. But we said ‘OK’ and it turned out pretty good.
“Henri and I just warmed up together. We didn’t practise specifics because Henri had his doubles and I was playing singles and doubles, so it was a case of keeping things simple. Our personalities are similar and that is important. Also, Henri is an amazing doubles player. We really enjoyed our time on court and we didn’t have any signals - it was all very simple. He tells me what to do and I tell him what to do!
“Our first match, against Hingis and Paes, was a really big one and once we had won that I thought we had a good a chance. After we won the semi-final, I remember waking up and my first thoughts were how positive I felt and couldn’t wait to win the title. I was that positive.”