British tennis fans are well used to a rollercoaster of emotions at Wimbledon. Thankfully for them the ride on No.2 Court ended on a high as Laura Robson produced a stunning comeback to become the first British woman to make the fourth round at Wimbledon since Sam Smith in 1998.
Robson’s 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over good friend Marina Erakovic was yet another sign of how much the 19-year-old Brit thrives on the big stage. Looking down and out at just one game away from a third round exit, Robson all of a sudden rose to the occasion and had the crowd in raptures as she booked a place in the last 16.
The victory also guarantees that Robson will be the first British player in the top 30 since Jo Durie in April 1987. A heartening achievement ahead of her fourth-round match, although she will have to step up her game against 2010 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Kaia Kanepi.
“I can definitely play better than I did today,” said Robson. “But it's tough to play your best tennis all the time. What I've been working on is just accepting that I'm not going to play great tennis in every match. I might have a couple of good games here and there, but the majority of the time I'm just going to have to work on being super-consistent and go from there.”
Although Robson is ranked 34 places above 25-year-old Erakovic, the New Zealander who missed much of last year due to a hip injury, it was the Brit who made a cagey start, slipping on the grass before being broken in her opening service game for 0-2.
Robson’s timing was off as she made several errors off the forehand wing and Erakovic went on to clinch the opening set in just 22 minutes with a forehand winner.
Robson managed to hold at the start of the second set thanks to a fortunate net cord but was broken at 2-2 as she sent a forehand wide. Erakovic served for the match at 5-4 but, out of nowhere, nerves took hold and she hit a double fault to gift a lifeline to Robson, who claimed the crucial break back with a forehand winner down the line.
Suddenly Erakovic looked a shadow of the player she was in the first set and another double fault on set point down saw Robson draw level.
“I think anyone would be tightening up serving for the match in that situation,” said Robson. “And I knew that she hadn't made the fourth round of a slam. That was what I was told. So I just tried to put the pressure on her serve, and she made a couple of double faults, which helped me. I knew that that was my chance to get in her head a little bit, and that's what I did.”
In a complete role reversal of the first set, Robson was on a roll as Erakovic stacked up the errors. An excellent return from Robson got her the opening break in the decider for 2-0 and Erakovic double faulted once more to give her opponent the double break, before finally ending Robson’s run of eight consecutive games to break back for 4-1.
Although Erakovic saved a match point in the penultimate game, Robson held her nerve to serve it out, clinching the win with a forehand winner. The crowd rightfully went wild, including her brother Nick, a Wimbledon ground staff member, who shared a fist bump with his sister as she departed the court.
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