Laura Robson carries the weight of British women’s expectations
World number 38 handled a nation’s pressure well on Centre Court
Laura Robson hits a return to Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia during their women’s singles tennis match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth /Reuters
Laura Robson can thank Andy Murray for shouldering the lion’s share of expectation. As the more celebrated names have fallen, Murray’s chances of meeting Novak Djokovic in the final have dramatically increased as Robson also inches forward, if not quite in his shadow certainly in the lee of the media gale. If Murray blinks first, Robson will carry a nation’s burden that her shoulders may not yet be broad enough to bear.
That the 19-year-old left hander was put on Centre Court for yesterday’s first match illustrates the elevated position she is now holds in Britain’s decades’ long fetish for a Wimbledon winner. But she was occasionally self deprecating after beating Colombia’s Mariana Duque-Marino 6-4, 6-1, her early play littered with hitches, wobbles and judgement call.
Robson is a talented player, a lefty with a dangerous serve and forehand when on song, but so often yesterday in the first set of the match she looked fragile and uncomfortably not in control of her power.
Duque-Marino was unable to take advantage and against a bigger name that may tell. But Robson can reflect positively on the way she put away a player ranked 117 in the world to her 38 and justifiably feel that it was tidy work, especially the closing games with temptations to turn a straightforward win into a mess of errors and panic. She broke the Colombian twice and served to 40-0 in the final game for a nerveless finish. New Zealand’s 71 ranked Marina Erakovic faces her today.
“I was kind of having a little bit of timing with my serve throughout the whole match. It wasn’t to do with nerves,” said Robson. “I managed to break her at the end of the first set, which was big. . . I knew going into the match today that I was the favourite and I thought I handled that pretty well.”
If she wishes, Robson can discuss her vaunted position with Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys or wild card Alison Riske, the three Americans who hold up their countries hopes in a week where their men’s performance on the grass ended with Djokovic beating Bobby Reynolds and condemning the US men to their the worst championships in over a century.
There is an air of desperation in both the US and Britain, Robson the last British woman remaining.
“Marina Erakovic, I’ve lost to her on grass before. She’s got a big game, a huge serve, a good slice as well. Pretty much a perfect game for grass,” said Robson of her next opponent. “I know it’s going to be a tough one . . . Yeah, we’ll see how it goes.”
There’s so no doubt that Robson’s weapons will trouble most players and even Serena Williamssaid she could become better than a top 10 player.
Wayne Rooney tweeted her at the US Open but tragically called her Robinson. This week if he decides to do it again, he will probably get her name right.