For British teenager Laura Robson, 19, drawing the newly anointed top 10 talent Maria Kirilenko in the first round probably wasn’t a welcome start to a tournament. Doing so at Wimbledon where the pressure for her to succeed is intense must have proved an even tougher task.
But the silver medallist in mixed doubles (with Andy Murray) at the Olympics began her 2013 Fortnight prepared for the chore. She dismantled the seeded player across the net in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, in a little over an hour to equal her best showing herefrom 2011.
Play on No.1 Court began more or less without much flair, with Robson first reeling off the first game with her signature, powerful serve to strong applause from the fans. Kirilenko’s response? A dominant game held at love due to a rash of Robson errors.
Robson, however, would remain capable of staying with the play of her seasoned opponent and lost just one point on her own serve for the 2-1 lead. The Brit started to put pressure on Kirilenko’s serve in the match’s third game, striking at second serves and blasting backhands to get to deuce.
But Kirilenko would shake off the near loss of serve on an overhead smash winner to level the set at 2-2.
In a crucial turnaround and up 4-3, Robson fired a forehand winner cross-court to set up a break point. She followed it up with a backhand winner for the 5-3 lead and a shot at grabbing the first set.
A nervy game followed for the No. 38-ranked Brit. She appeared to have the set on her racket in business-like fashion, butchoked a couple points away. Robson held ultimately through strong serves and blasting forehands that painted the line.The set was donated to her on a third set point with an error from her Russian opposition.
Notably, Kirilenko did not produce a single unforced error throughout the first nine games of the match. Instead, Robson proved too strong, hitting winners at opportune moments to come out on top in 32 minutes.
In the second set, Robson started off in much the same fashion. She pressured Kirilenko early by setting up a break point at 1-1 with more her ripping forehand. A backhand down-the-line winner sealed the early lead for 2-1.
It appeared to be Kirilenko, the seeded player, who ultimately wilted under the pressure as Robson won four, consecutive points for the 3-1 lead. She earned the safety break soon after, although needing four break points and a forehand winner down the line to secure it.
A rash of errors at 4-1 by the Brit, however, allowed Kirilenko back in the match with her first break of the Robson serve. The blip in form for Robson appeared to end after she struck an ace at 4-3 and down 0-15. She would take the next point, too, with a forehand winner and eventually the game with another for a 5-3 lead.
In what would be the last game of the match on her serve at 5-4, Robson struck a forehand cross-court winner, a big serve that Kirilenko failed to block back. She set up match point number one as a Kirilenko volley flew wide and secured her spot in the second round with a forehand winner.
It was Robson's third victory over a top 10 opponent at a Grand Slam. Robson said: "I think it was a big one for me because although I really like grass and I seem to play well on it, I've never actually done overly well here. I've only made the second round once. So yeah, it was a big win for me. Any top-10 win is a good win. I went into the match very confident.''
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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