Heather Watson loses to Donna Vekic in Charleston

Heather Watson

British number one Heather Watson suffered a first-round defeat by Croatia's Donna Vekic at the clay-court Family Circle Cup in Charleston, USA.

Watson, seeded 16th and ranked 67 places above Vekic at 41st, lost 6-3 4-6 7-5 in two hours and 36 minutes.

The Briton twice led by a break in the final set and had looked on course for victory serving at 4-3, 40-0.

It was only a third win of 2015 for 18-year-old Vekic, who has slipped outside the top 100 from a high of 62 in 2013.

Watson, 22, went into the match with 10 wins and a WTA title to her name this year but dropped serve immediately and could not recover in the opening set.

The Briton's situation was becoming dire by the time Vekic moved 4-2 clear in the second, but the Croat crumbled with three double faults in a single game as she was broken, and then failed to capitalise from 0-40 on the Watson serve.

Vekic finds her form
The 18-year-old, who split with British coach David Felgate last year, became the youngest winner of a WTA title since 2006 when she won in Kuala Lumpur aged 17 years, 10 months in 2014.
In 2015 she has lost in the first round at Shenzhen, the Australian Open and Pattaya City, and in qualifying at Sydney and Miami.

Watson took advantage to complete a four-game sweep and level at one set all, and then dragged Vekic out of position to break for 2-1 in the decider.

There were more twists to come, however, with Vekic calling for the trainer three times as she suffered with cramp in her foot, only to recover two breaks - the second from 40-0 down - with some fearless hitting.

Watson was faced with serving to force a decisive tie-break but Vekic kept up the attack and broke to love, clinching victory with a backhand winner.