Laura Robson must quickly recover from her scrappy victory over Marina Erakovic and prepare for a gruelling fourth-round encounter with Kaia Kanepi this Monday, a match that will define her success at this year’s Wimbledon Championships.
The British number one came through Saturday’s clash 1-6 7-5 6-3 but her performance was far from what the Court Two crowd expected from this promising 19-year-old. Having performed a masterclass of tennis just a day before the fans expected Robson to power through an opponent ranked 33 places lower than the world number 38 but early proceedings suggested this wouldn’t be the case.
Robson lost the first three games and was easily broken twice in the opening set as the Wimbledon home crowd’s expectations got to her. Her footwork on the baseline was off and she failed to make those powerful backhands that proved so significant during her routine victory over Mariana Duque the previous round.
Robson looked like a rabbit in the headlights and only after a sit down and introspective critique of her own game did she come out of her shell and prove just what potential she has to impress on the WTA. A close second set saw the Brit find her serving mojo and by the third there was only one player in it.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Robson has struggled with third-set confidence over the past two months but there was no lacking here as she thumped her opponent around the court, using that springing muscle in her backhand to carve open Erakovic.
Now into the last 16, the left-hander faces her toughest challenge yet in Kaia Kanepi, the Estonia world number 46 who breezed through the third round with an untroubled straight-sets victory against wildcard Alison Riske.
The last-16 tie is set to dominate Wimbledon’s headlines on Monday as British support gets behind their last remaining women’s star. Robson has the ability to overcome Kanepi with ease but how she handles the pressure will again come under scrutiny. The difference may even fall to who serves first in the match, for Robson struggled to recover in the opening set after going a game down so easily to the imposing Erakovic and only began her comeback when back level in the second.
She proved her mettle in the third set and that pressure visibly lifted. Her head was up and shoulders back that gave her the imposing, confident posture to reverse her fortunes. This was missing at Roland Garros and previous spring tournaments but that glimmer of class should see her through to the last eight.
Although hopes are high for Robson’s further advance, the quarters are as far as anyone can expect her to go, for Serena Williams lurks in the top side of the draw and is deserved favourite to win Wimbledon for a sixth time. Robson has the power to match Serena for about three shots a rally but her arm just isn’t developed enough to handle the 31-year-old’s punch.
Make no mistake, a Robson v Serena clash on Centre Court would be fitting for a tournament that has already seen major upsets this summer but we should not ask too much of a player so new to the Grand Slam game.
Photo: Carine06, flickr