Wimbledon 2013: Laura Robson shows winning spirit to reach last 16

Wimbledon 2013: Laura Robson books her place in the last 16 at Wimbledon with a 1-6 7-5 6-3 victory over Marina Erakovic

laura robson
Laura Robson is the first British woman to reach the last 16 since 1998 Photo: Marianne Bevis

For Laura Robson, middle Saturday brought uncharted territory. It was her third match, on a third different court, at the Wimbledon Championships.

For while she may have reached the last 16 at the US Open, this was her best run on home turf, and now she was aiming to break more new ground.

Not that she was alone. Far more experienced and successful players in the women’s draw were trying to do the same. US Open champion and French Open finalist Sam Stosur had, in her 11 previous visits, won only six matches here and reached the third round just once before.

And the Australian’s task looked much tougher than Robson’s, for she faced Sabine Lisicki who had reached two quarter-finals and one semi-final in her past three Wimbledon appearances. Robson, meanwhile, played the No71 New Zealander Marina Erakovic—though the 25-year-old had reached a career-high of 39 this time last year. She also had some pedigree on grass: for a start, she had beaten Robson in their only previous match in Birmingham last year.

So Robson was suitably cautious ahead of the match: “I’ve lost to her on grass before. She’s got a big game, a huge serve, a good slice as well. Pretty much a perfect game for grass. Yeah, I know it’s going to be a tough one. She’s been doing really well in doubles lately, as well. Her net game is on the ball.”

The conditions, too, were considerably different for Robson. Instead of the biggest stage with an adoring crowd on Centre Court, she had Court 2, and instead of fast, humid conditions under the roof, she was in the full heat of the sun on a much drier and dustier court.

Perhaps that is why she lost her footing so early in the match as she attempted to adjust. With Erakovic already on the board, Robson’s right foot slipped from under her at 0-30, and though she was soon up and unscathed, she was also broken.

Erakovic, serving big and to the lines, held serve again to lead 3-0 after 10 minutes. Robson held in the fourth game but she was clearly struggling to contain the aggressive forward-moving game of her opponent: Her error count crept up to seven compared with just one by Erakovic, and the New Zealand woman broke again in the sixth when a Robson forehand went wide.

After only 22 minutes, Erakovic served out the set with a fine serve-and-volley play, 6-1. Her aggressive tactics were writ large in her stats: 18 winners—seven of them aces—to just two errors. Robson had made 13 errors.

The winner count continued to soar from the Erakovic racket and her serve cranked up to 111mph, with eight aces. She forced another backhand error from Robson in the fifth game to break.

So it looked as though Erakovic had the match in her grasp when she stepped up to serve for the set at 5-4, but Robson strode out with a look of real determination in her face. She pounced on the Erakovic serve to bring up two break points and her forehand, now adjusted into its formidable rhythm, zipped through the court for a winner and they were on level terms.

The crowd could hardly contain themselves at the British comeback, especially as Robson tracked down a drop shot to make winning pass: She held serve to lead 6-5 and then took advantage of a growing number of second serves from a clearly nervous Erakovic. On break point, a Robson forehand was called out—but Hawkeye showed it had clipped the line. She would have another bite of the cherry, and she took it. Court 2 erupted as Robson took the set, 7-5.

The second set had taken more than twice as long as the first, and it had helped work the Robson ground strokes into form. And she continued to impress in the third, breaking Erakovic’s opening serve to lead 2-0.

Robson faced three break points straight away, but produced some big serves to counter only her second double fault of the match, again tracked down a drop shot to force an error from Erakovic, and held for a gutsy 3-0 lead.

Robson got what she needed and had earned: chants of “Laura” echoed around the court. Yet again, she showed her improved speed to track down another drop shot and hoisted a lob to earn more break points. She converted to lead 4-0.

Erakovic was not done, though. She hit back with a break in the fifth and held strongly to close the gap, but Robson edged to 5-2, and an exuberant Court 2 went into Mexican wave mode. Robson almost sealed it with a final break but the New Zealand woman resisted: Robson would have to serve it out, and she did, with—what else?—a forehand winner down the line.

Robson, beaming to her adoring public, quickly acknowledged their part: “It was totally amazing out there today: I couldn’t have done it without them.”

So Robson took one more step in her evolving career, matching her US Open last-16 run at Wimbledon for the first time. But there can be no doubt which is the sweeter. She said ahead of the match, “the biggest dream is to win here…that’s how it always has been.”

It may not end there either: She does not face a seed in the next round, so a quarter-final place is within her sights. Already, though, she has achieved another milestone: She will break into the top 30 for the first time after The Championships. Which means that, with some decent matches between now and the US Open, she could at last become a Grand Slam seed, too.

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