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What the papers say

Fans show their support for Laura Robson on Day Six.
by Clive White
Monday 1 July 2013

It’s the job of a coach not to allow his charge to get carried away with a bit of success and few are better than Ivan Lendl at downplaying that sort of thing. Similarly, he didn’t get too carried away when journeymen were bringing the kings of the sport to their knees last week. He half-expected them to resort to type in the following rounds, which many of them did.

A keen golf player and fan, Lendl compared it to the highs and lows in the smaller ball sport. Simon Briggs quotes him as saying in The Daily Telegraph: “Someone shoots a 62 and they don’t often follow it with a 64. The guys who beat the top guys, there’s attention they are not used to, and a lot of times they don’t make it through the next match.

Of Murray’s supposedly easy passage through to the later stages of the Championships, Lendl says: “You definitely cannot relax. Though in some people’s eyes the draw is open, in my mind it is still very difficult.” And of the British No1’s opponent in the fourth round today, Mikhail Youzhny, he says: “Anyone who has won three matches at Wimbledon has done something right."

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With more than a few pundits getting a little carried away with Laura Robson’s success at Wimbledon, Kevin Garside, of The Independent, thought it was time to inject a bit of common sense before it’s too late.

“Call me an old curmudgeon,” he says, “but does not the febrile enthusiasm with which our nation has embraced Robson’s Wimbledon odyssey both damn tennis in this country and expose our desperate yearning to celebrate anything, no matter how minor, in these two weeks? She has outstripped the requirements of formal identification. Robson is simply Laura.

He continues: “Robson is not special. She is a young player who has won three consecutive matches at Wimbledon. Serena Williams is not losing any sleep at the thought of facing her. That you can depend on. You hope Robson is connected to that reality rather than the soapy construction being whipped up with the fervour ordinarily reserved for royal births, deaths and marriages. Laura becomes a princess in whites, the Kate Middleton of Wimbledon.”  

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The former multiple Wimbledon champion, Martina Navratilova, also felt it worthwhile to keep matters in perspective on the subject of Robson, even if she, too, believes the British girl has great potential. In her column in The Times, Navratilova says she sees similarities with Lindsay Davenport in Robsons’s game in the way she “hits the ball pretty flat, with a little top spin, but safely”.

But Navratilova warns that Robson needs to improve her speed about the court. “There is work to be done, of course. The biggest obstacle standing in her way is her second serve, but that’s technical thing that she can fix quite easily. Robson definitely needs to be quicker. She is moving better than she was, but she needs to get to more balls. Her shot selection, becoming more aggressive with her body positioning and getting to the net more often are all elements that need some improvement – but most of all she needs to work on her speed.

“It would be unfair to say that she should have sorted out her speed by now. Robson is still getting used to her body. And her body type is not the quick sort; that’s just who she is, so she really has to work on it.”

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Ben Rumsby reports in The Daily Telegraph that Robson has doubled her earning potential to beyond half a million pounds compared with last year. “The world’s two highest earning sportswomen last year,” he writes, “were Maria Sharapova and Li Na, who made £18.6m  and £14m respectively, including endorsements. ‘She’s got the potential to be the highest earning sportswomen we’ve ever produced,’ said Nigel Currie, director of sports marketing and sponsorship agency brandRapport. “She’s incredibly bubbly, she’s a good character, she’s good looking. She’s got a lot of marketable attributes.”

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Nick Bollettieri, in his column in The Independent, forecasts that Serena Williams, the Wimbledon champion, might not have things all her own way against Sabine Lisicki today. “Believe me guys,” he says in his chatty way, “this will be a real test for Serena provided Sabine gets her serve right. I expect she will because she is comfortable here – her last three Wimbledons have seen her reach the last eight, the semis and quarters last year.”

Even in terms of serving power, he thinks the German could be a match for her. “Her quickest against [Samantha] Stosur was 122mph – that is quick – and she averaged 108mph. Serving at that speed and getting it in the right places, will trouble any opponent.”

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Bollettieri also offers a word of advice for his former pupil Tommy Haas, who meets the No.1 seed Novak Djokovic. “What he needs to do to trouble Djokovic is to make sure he gets off the baseline – he must not let the Serb pin him there or he will be in real trouble,” he says. “Haas must mix his game up, get that biting slice into action, move Djokovic around.”

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