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Laura Robson rises to occasion on way to third round

A backhand shot by Laura Robson.
by Kate Battersby
Friday 28 June 2013

A win is a win is a win. That is all Laura Robson needs to take forward, having beaten the qualifier Mariana Duque-Marino 6-4, 6-1 in the second round under the Centre Court roof.

Others can chatter about the Briton’s nerves at the start of the match, and at the end of the first set. Others can chew over her easy relaxation when facing marquee names, and her comparative difficulty overcoming lesser players. Others can discuss her ability to deal with the burden of expectation when a win is absolutely expected of her, as it was here.

Robson, after all, only just missed out on being seeded and she conquered the No.10 seed Maria Kirilenko in the first round, while her Colombian journeywoman opponent is ranked No.162. For all that, Robson’s job in the second round was to win a place in the third round, and she did it in 67 minutes.

“I didn’t think I played my best,” admitted the 19-year-old left-hander. “My timing wasn’t perfect so I had to deal with that as best I could and managed to control it. It’s a big win for me. Any match on the Centre Court is big for me. The crowd under the roof is a lot louder, which is really exciting – you feel so much more of an atmosphere.

“I think I’m handling the pressure and the crowd support fine. I love it when they get involved. Sometimes they do a massive groan when I deliver a double fault, but I’m doing it too, so we’re going through it together. It’s just about getting through a match I should be winning. I knew I was favourite to win this match and I thought I handled it pretty well. I was nervous, but I thought she must be more nervous because I’ve played on the Centre Court before. So I just got away with that one.”

This second round encounter was one of eight matches held over from Thursday because of the rain. Originally scheduled for No.2 Court, it ended up on the Centre Court, where – so experienced voices say – the main problem for a newcomer to the big stage such as Duque-Marino is depth perception. Judging the distance to the back of the court is very difficult because it looks so different in the grand arena by comparison with the outside courts.

But it should be added that the Colombian herself came to this match on the back of an excellent first round win over the world No.35 Julia Goerges – a player with a dangerously comparable ranking to Robson’s 38. Nor was it anything new – Duque-Marino had four previous top 50 wins and (unlike Robson) a WTA title to her name, won in Bogota three years ago. Moreover, Robson has lost twice this year to players outside the top 100. Victory was not a given.

With the roof closed after morning rain, Robson opened with a display of nerves which saw her go a break down. She could barely get the ball back over the net, until she began to relax and delivered a useful forehand for the chance to level, converting it by volleying past Duque-Marino to leave her stranded at the net.

Suddenly Robson was enjoying herself, finding her range and reeling off a string of games to reach 5-2. When Duque-Marino double-faulted to offer an obliging set point, it all seemed very simple. But Robson hesitated, losing the set point, the game, and then her touch on her serve, netting a straightforward forehand to give the break back.

But Duque-Marino could not continue the momentum, and Robson grabbed the set 6-4. It was little wonder she breathed a visible sigh of relief at the changeover – she had won a set with just 43 per cent of her first serves in, with eight winners to 15 unforced errors. Not the stuff of which textbook wins are made.

Early in the second set she was inconsistent, but still managed to deliver a forehand pass to break for 2-0. Then she found fluency, playing intelligent tennis for the double break. She brought up three match points with a forehand rocket, and saw Duque-Marino send the ball long for victory, meaning Robson had won the last 10 points of the match.

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