Heather Watson falls in Hobart International semi-final to Elise Mertens

Britain’s Heather Watson missed out on a first WTA final for two years as she lost to Belgian second seed Elise Mertens at the Hobart International.

The 25-year-old, who won the title in 2015, went down 6-4 1-6 6-2 to 2017 champion Mertens in the semi-finals.

Watson will head to next week’s Australian Open with five wins under her belt since the start of the year.

She plays Kazakhstan’s world number 50 Yulia Putintseva in the first round in Melbourne.

Watson’s hopes of winning a fourth WTA title were raised when she fought back after dropping the first set against Mertens.

Ranked 38 places below Mertens at 74th in the world, Watson dominated the second set and earned a break point at the start of the third.

Mertens held on, however, taking a 3-1 lead when a defensive backhand looped over Watson’s head and dropped on the baseline, before breaking once more to clinch victory.

The Belgian will play either Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko or Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in the final.

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