Heather Watson's scaring of Serena Williams makes Britain proud

It took Heather Watson more than 10 minutes of being lobbed questions about how pleased she must have been to lose so bravely to Serena Williams before she cracked.

Their match had entranced Britain's fans of Wimbledon and brought a shower of plaudits for Guernsey's finest, but had not left her as upbeat as the rest of the nation when she went into her post-match press conference.

After being prompted for the umpteenth time to reflect on how good she had been as Williams beat her 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, Watson gave in when she was asked if she had made the country proud. "I hope so," she responded. "It would have been a lot better if I would have won. But I hope I did. I hope I fought for them and showed that it's not going to be a walk in the park for anybody that plays me."

Watson did both those things with a convincing and powerful performance which drew generous praise from her illustrious opponent, yet it was the mindset she displayed on and off the Centre Court on Thursday that suggested she was a player of real substance.

All she could think of after her two-hour-14-minute match was a missed opportunity at deuce when she was serving for the match; Watson would really have liked the chance to hit that ball a whole lot harder.

The mood she brought into the press conference room was more like that which probably descended on Laura Bassett, the defender on the England women's team who scored a 91st-minute own goal in the semi-finals to send them out of the World Cup.

"I was two points away from winning that match, so I'm pretty disappointed," Watson said. "I just wish I could have closed it out at the end."

Was it her finest moment anyway, she was then asked. "No, I wouldn't call losing the greatest day of my career."

Fair enough, and the reaction of someone with a winner's mentality. Watson hasn't always appeared to have that, however, and has been battling to prove her many doubters wrong since before she won the U.S. Open junior title in 2009.

Perhaps that was why much of Britain rejoiced after her defeat to Williams as if she had won: the expectations of her were so low. Maybe, too, that is just how UK fans see their tennis players, with Andy Murray very much being the exception to the rule that they must end up as plucky losers.

"I gave myself the opportunity to play against the best player in the world. I also gave myself the opportunity to beat her," said Watson, the upbeat mood of her locally-based inquisitors blending with her self-belief. "I didn't take it this time. But I'm really glad I was in that situation because I can learn from it and do better next time.

"I've learnt that I can compete with the best in the world and play really good tennis. And, yeah, it's a positive. I just need to use this to motivate myself for the future and know that I can be there, I can compete, and I can be at the top of the game."

Watson, ranked 59 in the world, has set herself the target of getting inside the top 25. Williams said that it was one of the toughest matches she's played and thought her opponent should aim higher. As Watson described the way she viewed playing the American, maybe she had a point.

The Briton saw Serena simply as someone standing in her path to Wimbledon's second week, an opponent blocking her goal to reach the last 16 of a major for the first time, and she should be applauded for that approach. It nearly paid dividends, too; the analysis of the match will not, this time, simply be that it was an off day for Serena, so Watson shouldn't be too hard on herself.

Don't forget, victory would have made her the first woman flying the Union Flag to defeat a reigning No.1 since Sue Barker beat Chris Evert in an Avon Series event in Boston in 1979. And, yes, her performance made Murray and many others very proud. "It was pretty impressive," Williams said of Watson's showing - and it really was.