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Another British record falls as Robson targets top 50

Laura Robson on her way to the fourth round of the US Open
by Alexandra Willis
Monday 24 September 2012

A week after 16-year-old Donna Vekic became the youngest player to reach a tournament singles final in six years, Laura Robson became the first British woman to reach a final since 1990.

It's no secret that Laura Robson likes a big stage. Her headline-grabbing run to the fourth round of the US Open, vanquishing Kim Clijsters and Li Na along the way, emphasised that point perfectly. The trouble, in the past, has come away from the bright lights and big cities, injury and illness conspiring to deprive Robson of momentum and consistency at the smaller events. 

But, be it confidence, finally being injury-free, or just a shift in the tides, the 18-year-old ended a 22-year wait for a British female finalist at a WTA singles event as she upset Zheng Jie, Peng Shuai and Sorana Cirstea in hot and humid conditions in Guangzhou, China. 

Achieving her longest string of back-to-back matches since she won the girls' singles title at Wimbledon as a 14-year-old four years ago, Robson came agonisingly close to ending another record, becoming the first British woman to win a WTA title since Sara Gomer at Aptos in 1988. But it was not to be, the rapidly improving Hsieh Su-Wei surviving one of the most dramatic, and as Robson put it, sweatiest, finals of the year to win 6-3 5-7 6-4. Robson saved five match points in the second set to take the title-decider into a third set, and surrendered a 3-0 lead to eventually succumb to the Chinse Tapei player's superior experience. 

"After I won the second set and led 3-0 in the third, she started playing well again and made the rallies longer, while I totally ran out of energy. I kept fighting but just wasn't able to hit my shots as well as I had earlier in the match," Robson said, clearly devastated at not being able to produce the win.

"But the more matches you play the more experience you get, and to play in a really tough final like this one in Guangzhou is a big experience for me."

While Robson climbed to a career-high ranking of No.57 as a result, just 150 points away from a place inside the world's top 50, Hsieh moved up to No.39, a remarkable rise considering she was ranked outside the top 200 this time last year. 

"Some people say I don't often hit the ball with a lot of power, that I used the opponent's power against them and put the ball in unexpected places," Hsieh said. "I don't have big muscles so I have to work hard and do that and try to make my opponent run as much as possible."

If Guangzhou proved to be the site of career-making runs for the two finalists, the tournament in Seoul, South Korea, yielded two career revivals. 

Former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki won her first title since New Haven last August with her 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Kaia Kanepi, the Estonian making her return to competitive action after three months out with injury. 

Wozniacki, who added her 19th trophy to her career collection, had far too much for Kanepi, overwhelming the Estonian in 62 minutes. 

"I'm just happy I won the tournament," Wozniacki said. "I want to enjoy it and be positive - so that's what I'm thinking about right now. I want to build up for the next season and hopefully my results this week will help me move forward and get back to playing my best."

The tour's women have now moved onto Tokyo, where Serena Williams is the only absent member of the women's top 10. Britain's Heather Watson has already begun the event by upsetting former Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki, meaning there are plenty more headlines to come from the Asian swing. 

In men's tennis, Slovakia's Martin Klizan leaped some record-breaking hurdles of his own, becoming the first maiden winner on the ATP in 2012, and the first Slovakian to win a singles title since Dominik Hrbaty in Marseille in 2004. Klizan saw off Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-3 in St Petersburg and is now sitting just outside the world's top 30, despite only winning his first back-to-back matches on the tour three months ago. 

"I said last year that I would like to be Top 100 by the end of this year and I've already done it," Klizan said. "Now I've been Top 50, Top 40, maybe I can be Top 30 at the end of the year. I hope I can be healthy and still with enough power to play until the end of the season. I've played many, many great weeks."

At the week's other men's tournament, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga successfully defended his title in Metz, France, dismissing another Italian, Andreas Seppi, 6-1, 6-2 to win his ninth career singles title. 

"This is the first time I have been able to defend a title," Tsonga said. "So it's even more special that it's here at the Moselle Open, where I am the ambassador."

The Frenchman is now within touching distance of qualifying for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London. 

The ATP coterie moves on to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok this week for two ATP 250 events, ahead of the larger ATP 500 events in Beijing and Tokyo, and the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai in two weeks. 


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