Heather Watson overcomes British rival Jodie Burrage in Abu Dhabi

Heather Watson was forced to dig deep as she edged past young British rival Jodie Burrage at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open on Thursday.

Watson headed into the match having come out on top in the inaugural staging of the Battle of the Brits Premier League of Tennis held at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton last month, where she defeated Burrage in a battle royale en route to the title.

Burrage, 21, was playing a tour-level match for the first time after losing in the final round of qualifying and being given a lucky loser spot.

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She settled into the match a lot faster than Watson, who is ranked more than 200 places higher, and led by a double break in the first set before serving it out at the second time of asking.

Watson recovered from an early break to win the second set with a run of five games in a row.

But Burrage dug in admirably in the decider and had her chances before eventually going down 4-6 6-2 7-5.

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin opened her season by beating Yang Zhaoxuan 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 in the first round.

The American hit 11 aces to set up a second-round match against Kirsten Flipkens.

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