Since she first came to be noticed by the wider public in the mixed-doubles final I don’t remember British number one Laura Robson having one easy draw. This year, in the Australian Open she battled past Petra Kvitova before going out to 25th ranked Sloane Stephens. More recently in Madrid she beat world number four Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets, followed by losing a third set tie-break to the number 16 Ana Ivanovic.
However, in Rome it got even worse for the Brit. In the draw she was caught in a Williams sandwich. In the first round she came up against the slightly weaker sister, Venus. She seems to thrive on the oppurtunity to lay top ten players, as she beat her in straight sets too; 6-3, 6-2. She found it hard to play in the tremendous wind, which played havock with both contenders’ serves. Post-match Robson commented: “I always have trouble with the wind so it was kind of tough in the first set, but then it sort of settled down,” the number 39 said. “The hardest part for me was on my service games, having to wait so long between the first and second serves because of the wind. But I just got used it, and I got centered” Followed later by “It’s hard to play high quality tennis in the wind, but I’m still happy to have won today.” In the interview she also spoke about how Venus Williams was one of the most inspirational players to her in her transition to the professional game.
Having said herself she enjoyed watching Williams play at Wimbledon aged 10, there is a clear age gap. Whereas Venus has only played three WTA tournaments so far this season, Robson has played in 11 competitions. Still, they both play similarly, with good serves and sharp, powerful baseline ground-strokes. Robson said Williams’ power was something that specifically stood out to here.
It didn’t stop there, as in the next round she faced a fresh Serena Williams. Fresh? As top seed, she had a bye through the first round. But the Brit had endured almost an hour and a half with her sister. Determined to prove that at 31 Serena is not done, she is desperately trying to get her 51st title. Her determination showed on the court, and her shot variety was something Robson couldn’t predict at the age of 19. A hard serve followed by a drop-shot – at times it was just cruel. Williams won the match 6-2, 6-2 and in the next round she will go on to play Dominika Cibulkova.
Can Laura crack the top 30? At 39th (two up from last week) she’s at her career’s best so far. – Jacob Lee