Great Britain’s Laura Robson crashed out in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Classic on Monday after an erratic, error-strewn performance against world number 101 Yulia Putintseva ended in defeat.
Robson also fell in round one in Doha last week and failed to find any sort of consistency in Dubai, losing 6-4 2-6 7-6 to an opponent only just making her way onto the WTA Tour.
The 19-year-old played the majority of the match in front of the baseline, taking the initiative to control rallies against a defensive Putintseva. She was decisive when required but far too often hit unforced errors, blighting every effort to break her opponent at decisive points in the match.
The final set went to a tiebreak, where Robson first gained an advantage before hitting the net to hand Putintseva match point. The Kazakhstan-born needed a second chance to see off the tie, nailing a serve Robson simply couldn’t handle.
The Brit had two break points at 4-3 up in the first set but hit long on three occasions to hand her opponent the game, and within minutes was a break down herself after hitting another unforced error long of the line.
Heading into the second she more than redeemed her early error, breaking quickly before stretching out into a 4-1 lead by the turnover. She went on to take the second 6-2 after cutting out frequent errors, Putintseva guilty of wasting the best of chances herself.
Despite holding the momentum heading into the final set, Robson was the first to blink as she hit a backhand wide in the third game, losing her serve and then her cool in the fourth, screaming as a wayward forehand went long to go 3-1 down.
She fell in the next game despite having three break points and Putintseva then broke again for 5-2. Yet inexplicably Robson gave herself hope by winning the next eight points, nailing her serves and pinning Putintseva to the back of the court.
Another break after two impossible cross-court shots levelled the set at 5-5. Suddenly Robson found her confidence and saw off her own service game only for Putintseva to hit level straight away.
Robson lost her first serve with an unforced error, but claimed a mini break back for 1-2. Two stunning serves put her in the lead and when Putintseva missed a net volley the Brit had daylight at 4-3 on her serve.
An ace and break later and that advantage was lost, however, Putintseva earning the next two rallies to see match point at 6-5. The Kazak hit long under real pressure but Robson hit the net to give Putintseva a match point on her own serve.
The Brit hit her final return well wide, a poor shot that epitomised the erratic nature of her game. Indeed, this match proved there are unsettling problems to her tennis and Robson must keep those groundstrokes consistent if she is to progress on the WTA tour.
Far too often she missed the baseline with high, looping forehands that Putintseva comfortably put away. Neither the result nor the performance – which saw 49 unforced errors – was good enough for a player looking to make the top 30 before the summer is out.