Heather Watson’s triumph in the Japan Open was the first time a British woman had won a WTA title in 24 years. Whilst title triumphs such as these are small in comparison to more prestigious tournaments such as Wimbledon, they can offer a glimpse into a successful future. Here are 5 other sports stars that started winning small on their way to winning big.
5 Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton won the F1 World Championship in 2008, but it was in the 2006 GP2 Championship that he really announced himself as a star for the future. Five superb victories set him on his way to the title and waiting at the end of the year was a lucrative contract with the McLaren F1 team. Within two years of his GP2 triumph, he was F1 World Champion.
4 Andy Murray
Like Hamilton, 2006 saw the emergence of Andy Murray as a real potential winner. He’d burst onto the scene memorably at Wimbledon the previous year, but 2006 saw his first ATP title victory in the SAP Open in San Jose, California. On the way to victory he beat a top-ten player for the first time (Andy Roddick) and beat former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt in the final. Since 2006 Murray has gone from strength to strength, finally capturing his first Grand Slam title at the US Open this year.
3 Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy is now firmly established as one of the world’s best golfers with two Major victories under his belt and part of Europe’s recent victorious Ryder Cup team. But the first sign that Rory was destined to reach the top came in the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic. His victory by one stroke over Justin Rose was McIlroy’s first professional title at just 19 years of age and since then the titles have not stopped coming.
2 Bradley Wiggins
Bradley Wiggins was already a successful Olympic track cyclist before he switched to road racing. Wiggins was talked about as a Tour de France winner, but it was his performance in the Critérium du Dauphiné in June, (the traditional pre-Tour race) that really showed his potential to capture cycling’s greatest prize. Wiggins rode with authority throughout and shone in the stage 4 time trial. All was enough to secure victory in a race which serves as a strong indicator of form going into the Tour. Come the Tour itself, Wiggins was supreme and became the UK’s first Tour de France winner.
1 Jessica Ennis
Jessica Ennis was the star of the London Olympics as Team GB recorded a superb haul of gold medals. It was in the 2009 World Championships that Ennis really announced herself, winning gold with a personal best. Although the World Championships are prestigious in their own right, it does not quite have the glory of the Olympics and so Ennis’s World title certainly set her on her way to Olympic glory.