Madrid Open 2013: Laura Robson beaten by Ana Ivanovic

Madrid Open 2013: British teenager Laura Robson loses to Ana Ivanovic 5-7 6-2 7-6 (7-5) in the third round in Spain

laura robson
Laura Robson lost to Ana Ivanovic in three sets on Wednesday Photo: Mirsasha/Flickr

After a famous victory over world No4 Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round of the Madrid Premier this week, Laura Robson was unable to produce the same consistency against former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic.

After two-and-a-quarter hours, the top-ranked Briton went out in a nail-biting final-set tie-breaker.

Despite reaching a career-high of 38 in April, Robson’s 2013 season so far has failed to build on her strong run in the latter half of last year: She has won just five matches in 10 tournaments, exiting in the first round of six of them.

But her bold victory this week over Radwanska, 6-3, 6-1, recalled her heady run at the US Open last summer, where she played three Grand Slam champions in a row and beat two of them before falling to defending champion Sam Stosur in the fourth round.

Robson went on to reach the final of Guangzou and the quarters in Osaka, and she looked to continue her giant-killing ways in 2013 after beating former Wimbledon champion and No8 seed Petra Kvitova at the Australian Open.

Since then, Robson has struggled with her form in what has become a confidence-sapping pattern of close but losing three-setters.

It was the story again when she faced Ivanovic. In a see-sawing match littered with errors and erratic serving from both women, Robson opened strongly with a break of serve, only to see Ivanovic break straight back. But the Briton broke again in the 12th game to take the set, 7-5, though the errors already mounted on both sides: 22 to Robson, 20 to Ivanovic.

After some strong words from her coach, Ivanovic responded in the second set with more aggressive tactics, stepping into the Robson serve to make some of the best strikes of the entire match. But she, too, failed to hold serve, and the set was marked by more breaks of serve than holds. It was Ivanovic who made the fewer errors, however, and she took the set with the first love hold of the match, 6-2.

The third set became a battle of nerves as first Robson then Ivanovic broke serve only to flounder when attempting to hold. Robson held the early advantage, courtesy of a hold in the very first game, and she kept her nose ahead until she made what looked like another decisive hold—to love—for a 5-2 lead.

Now it was Ivanovic’s turn to hold, she broke and held again to level at 5-5. Then a nervy service game from Robson, with two double faults, gave Ivanovic another break and the chance to serve out the match.

But if Robson looked edgy, the No16 seed from Serbia looked just as fragile, and she opened with two double faults. Robson broke to love and stayed with Ivanovic through a tense tie-break. She fended off one match point at 4-6 but double-faulted—her fifth of the set, her 11th of the match—on the second.

Not surprisingly, Ivanovic’s celebration at reaching the quarter-finals was one of relief rather than jubilation: She outnumbered her 29 winners by 53 errors. Her next opponent will almost certainly be less forgiving of such stats.

Angelique Kerber had a major three-set battle of her own against another French Open winner, Svetlana Kuznetsova, but came through, 7-5, in the final set.

In a draw that has seen four of the top eight seeds fall early in Madrid, the most high-profile was Victoria Azarenka. Her second-round loss to Ekaterina Makarova ended an unbroken 18 match-winning streak that took in titles at the Australian Open and Doha. Until Madrid, however, she had been out for almost two months with an ankle injury. Now with just two matches on clay, she will hope to get match-sharp in Rome next week ahead of Roland Garros.

With Na Li and Caroline Wozniacki out of Serena Williams’ quarter and Azarenka now out of her half, the defending champion’s draw looks considerably better than it did at the start. The same might be said of the No2 seed Maria Sharapova, who is looking to take Williams’ title and the No1 ranking in Madrid. She has lost Stosur, Kvitova and Dominika Cibulkova—all the seeds—in her quarter as well as world No4 Radwanska in her half.

Robson, meanwhile, heads to Rome with a positive mind-set: “It’s been a good week of tennis for me and my level has picked up a lot since Estoril last week. I’ve still got Rome to look forward to.”

After announcing a parting of the ways with her coach of nine months, Zeljko Krajan, she plans to work with the former coach of Ivanovic, Sven Groeneveld, and Mats Merkel in Rome.

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