US Open 2016: Naomi Broady beats returning Laura Robson in battle of the Brits
Naomi Broady beats compatriot Laura Robson 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-4 to claim the second Grand Slam main-draw win of her career
Laura Robson was still a teenager when she reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2013, and it seemed as though her tennis career could only go one way: up.
That run took her to a ranking of 27, and had been no flash in the pan. The previous autumn, she had done the same at the US Open, at the start of 2013 she had made the third round in Australia, and went on to reach the third round in New York come August.
She had the scalps of players like Kim Clijsters, Li Na, Venus Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Petra Kvitova to her name, but already there were worrying signs. By the end of 2013, she would have withdrawn from Toronto and New Haven with wrist problems, and at the start of 2014, played and lost just two matches, in Hobart and Melbourne, before injury halted her progress.
So serious was the problem that she underwent surgery, and would not return to court until the summer grass season in 2015, then she played some ITF events, but did not win a main-tour match throughout.
It has been a desperately long and slow return for the 22-year-old via wild cards and protected rankings, and more time trying to get match-play on the ITF circuit. Then all at once, she picked up a title on that secondary tour, just ahead of the US Open, and that earned her a wild card into the qualifying draw in New York.
And in the city where she first flourished, she grabbed her chance with both hands to win through to the main draw.
What misfortune, then, that she should be drawn against fellow Brit Naomi Broady, ranked close to her career-best at 82—though after a strong start to the season, she had failed to win a main-tour match between Katowice in April and Washington last month. In fact, she then went on to beat the Olympic champion Monica Puig in Montreal, too.
The 26-year-old Broady, an unconventional player of 6ft 2in and with single-handed slap of a backhand, had never before played a match in the US Open main draw, qualifying by right for the first time this year. Indeed she had only won one Major match, reaching the second round of Wimbledon in 2014. And aside from some vaguely remembered meetings in the distant past, these two Britons had never played on the tour before.
In the event, it would become a long and tough contest. Break points came and went as the left-handed Robson pummelled her forehand, and Broady reciprocated with her looping right-hander. Robson focused much of her attention on the Broady backhand, but despite its awkward action, that is a shot much improved over the years. She picked off a number of unlikely winners off that wing.
So they edged to a tie-break after almost an hour of play, and Broady took the initial lead with a fine forehand winner, but Robson won six of the next seven points to take the set, 7-6(4).
The second set started in a similar vein, with an exchange of breaks, but Robson became distracted by raucous cheering during a tight five-setter on the next court. Her ball-toss went awry and the double faults followed. Broady broke through in the seventh game, held for 5-3, and broke again, 6-3, then went off for a comfort break.
Robson stayed motionless on court for the 10 or so minutes’ duration, gazing into the middle distance. She afterwards talked of this phase of the match being an important one to the outcome.
Even so, the result of the match was uncertain until the very last minute of the two and a half hour match. Broady served first, and Robson’s unforced errors crept up as she fended off deuces. She had a break chance of her own in the seventh game but could not convert, and as Robson wavered with a ninth double-fault, Broady pounced.
Leading at 5-4, she hit a backhand winner, then a forehand winner, and Robson struck two balls out to take her error tally to 41.
It was a downcast Robson who came straight to press.
“I’m feeling a lot of things right now but mostly disappointed. I don’t know what I expected to play like, but I thought I didn’t impose myself enough in the rallies. She is tough to play against and she serves well but I had a couple of chances and put myself in the right position and then took my foot off the pedal a little. It’s really disappointing: I will get over it and probably think that overall this was a pretty good tournament, but right now it sucks.”
She now heads off for more work on the Challenger circuit. She is, she said, signed up to everything and will adjust her schedule according to her results.
Broady, though, can look forward to trying to make another piece of personal history. She will face either the US Open Series Bonus Challenge winner, No4 seed Radwanska, or qualifier Jessica Pegula.