Heather Watson Talks Rihanna, Chocolate Eclairs And Partying With Andy Murray

Wimbledon champion. Rap music lover. Monster Munch eater. ELLE sat down for an exclusive chat with British tennis player Heather Watson to find her pre-match rituals, top workout tips and hitting the dance floor with Andy Murray

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2009.

That was the year I first heard of British tennis player Heather Watson – the same year the then 17 year-old Guernsey-born athlete won the Junior US Open, becoming the first British athlete to win the women's event, beating Yana Buchina in straight sets.

Born just a month apart and admittedly having a love of tennis myself, it's safe to say Watson was beating me in the 'teenagers winning at life' department.

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Since then, Watson has won the Japan Open, became a Mixed Doubles champion at the 2016 Wimbledon Championships with Henri Kontinen and is currently ranked British number two.

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We caught up with the tennis star at the opening of New Balance's flagship store on Oxford Street, London to discuss training days, fashion and who, out of her and Andy, is better on the dance floor.

First of all, congratulations on making it to the final of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) in Hong Kong earlier this month. You play singles and doubles but which do you like the most?

I find them very different, even doubles compared to mixed doubles. I feel more pressure on myself in singles while my game in doubles is more aggressive. I have a different mindset in doubles and I'm less afraid to miss the ball, which I probably do more in singles.

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In terms of mixed doubles, it's a whole other ball game. Personally, it's just fun and I think that's down to having had some incredible partners, which makes a big difference. I think I need to bring more of the mindset of 'it doesn't matter what the outcome is I'm just going to do what I need to do', into my singles more.

You played in the 2016 Rio Olympics with Andy Murray and celebrated together after your wins at Wimbledon earlier this summer – what is he like to work with?

First of all, Andy is an incredible athlete. He's so competitive, hardworking and so nice to be around. He's not what people think he is. I find him quieter, very chilled and more relaxed off the court. The night of Wimbledon, I was so exhausted from the two weeks of playing and straight after the final I had to shower, get changed and go to the ball.

I was so late and then we went out afterwards – I didn't get home 'til 6am the next day. I'm not one for going out that late – no tennis player is because you play week in, week out – but God, it was fun. I danced, a lot. I didn't sit down.

Describe a day's training.

A regular day of training involves waking up around 7.30am and going straight to breakfast. I take five minutes to get ready. I just brush my hair, throw it up, put on some sports clothes on and I'm out – I'm going to sweat and look terrible, anyway.

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I warm up for about half an hour, play tennis for two hours, go to the gym for an hour, then I'll shower, have lunch then do the same thing in the afternoon.

What are your favourite warm-ups to do before a match?

I like doing yoga stretches. I find running or ride the bike quite boring and repetitive. I also like to crack the bones in my back, every morning – I love it but I don't recommend it for everybody.

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Over at ELLE, we love our sport but it's hard to find motivation in the winter when it's cold. What are your top tips for people wanting to get fit this season?

It's really tough. When I'm in the UK in the winter (Watson trains in Florida) and it's cold and dark, I'm not motivated to go out and train. However, I find it easier to go to the gym, where there's a lot of people around as it's more of a sociable activity. Instead of going out drinking, you can work out and meet different people. There's usually good looking people that are in shape in the gym so I think that's kind of good enough motivation.

Do you have to follow a strict diet during training?

I eat what I want but during training I try to be as healthy as possible, especially during matches – I eat whatever my body needs. Right now I'm on my off-season and I've been awful. I love chocolate eclairs and flaming hot Monster Munch.

How do you get yourself in the right mindset before a match?

Putting yourself in the right frame of mind pre-match changes everything, so I like to put music on. I'm currently listening to the English rapper Giggs, which is helping me get pumped up before playing. I also try and think a lot of positive thoughts and visualise myself winning.

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There have been some sexist comments made in the press this year about female tennis stars ( John Inverdale and Novak Djokovic's comments, to be precise) have you ever felt judged on the court because of your gender?

Personally, no. I haven't felt that way. I've read all the sexist comments people have made but what can you do? I don't really care what they think, it's irrelevant.

With there being such a strict dress code on court, how do introduce some of your own fashion tastes and personality into what you wear?

I do little things. For my match outfits, I've started to tuck my shirt into my bottoms to make them high waisted because I think it looks really smart. Sometimes, I wear a bandana instead of a visor. I wear a visor to protect my skin from the sun and I wear a bandana when it's less sunny to look cute.

I take a lot more risks on the practice court because we can wear what we want. I'm the type of person that is either dressed up or I'm in my New Balance – there's no inbetween. I have so many trainers it's scary.

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Who are your style icons, off the court?

Rihanna – she's flawless. I also like how Rita Ora dresses. They don't stick to one style.

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What's on your autumn wardrobe wish list?

I've actually just bought what I wanted – knee high suede boots. Everyone has them at the moment but I had to get a pair.

What is it about New Balance clothing you love?

The clothes are so trend. I'm trying out some new compression leggings at the moment which are great and I love the fact you can look around the shop and want everything – even the boys' clothes!

I constantly have other tennis female players asking me for the contacts for New Balance because they want to be sponsored by them too and I'm like, 'yeah, they're not sponsoring anyone else'.

What would you be doing if you weren't a tennis player?

I'm really interested in the idea of buying and doing up properties. There's a channel in the US called HGTV and shows like Location Location Location is all I watch.

You were tipped as the next big star in tennis early on in your career, do you think it's helped you or added unnecessary pressure?

To be fair, I feel like nobody really thought of me like that. It's only after I achieved things that people were like: 'Oh, Heather is good'. The first time I got noticed was after I won the Junior US open and my first WTA title. I don't feel like people have put me on any pedestal. I've always been fighting for my spot and proving people wrong.

Now you're on your off-season, what have you been up to?

I've just had a week off and it's been heaven. I've just been eating and sleeping. I've got another couple of weeks like this before getting back to the hardest training of the year ahead of the new year – I'll be very unfit by the time that comes. However, I hit the gym yesterday and today because I feel like a sloth when I don't exercise. You just feel better when you work out.

We couldn't have said it better ourselves, Heather.

New Balance's flagship store is now open, 287-291 Oxford Street.

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