Australian Open 2014: Laura Robson and Heather Watson not the new kids in town now

First-round defeats and success for next generation send out timely warning to British pair

Melbourne Park

Time marches on. Laura Robson, who came to the public's attention when she won junior Wimbledon as a wide-eyed 14-year-old, will no longer be a teenager as of next week. Her fellow Briton, 21-year-old Heather Watson, having reached a career-high No 39 in the world rankings 11 months ago, is set to drop out of the top 150 in a fortnight.

At this stage last year the two young British women were on a high, the world at their feet, having reached the third round at the Australian Open. Today they were having to deal with the disappointment of falling at the first hurdle. Both lost in the opening round of matches on the first day, meaning that British interest in the women's singles was over long before folks back home had risen from their beds.

Robson was the first player to be knocked out of the tournament, losing 6-3, 6-0 to Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens. Watson put up more of a fight, but lost 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 to Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova.

Ever since Watson joined Robson as a junior Grand Slam champion by winning the US Open five years ago, the two Britons have been hailed as two of the game's most exciting prospects. There is of course still plenty of time for them to realise their potential, but in the interim new youthful talent is emerging, with several of the next wave of players winning their opening-day matches here.

Luksika Kumkhum, a 20-year-old Thai, sprang the biggest surprise of the first day with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 victory over the former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who lost to Robson here last year. American Madison Keys, who at 18 is the youngest player in the world's top 50, showed her resilience in outlasting Patricia Mayr-Achleitner of Austria 6-2, 6-7, 9-7.

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, aged 19 and newcomer of the year for 2013 on the women's tour, beat China's Hao Chen Tang 7-5, 6-1. Annika Beck of Germany, 19, crushed Croatia's Petra Martic 6-0, 6-0, and Puerto Rican Monica Puig, 20, who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, beat Anna Tatishvili of Georgia 6-2, 6-4.

In a match that underlined the passage of time like no other, the 16-year-old Swiss Belinda Bencic beat the 43-year-old Japanese, Kimiko Date-Krumm, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 on her Grand Slam debut. It was the largest age gap in a Grand Slam tournament since 47-year-old Martina Navratilova lost to 19-year-old Gisela Dulko at Wimbledon 10 years ago. "When I was fighting with her, she didn't look like a high school girl," Date-Krumm said.

Watson was no luckier than her compatriot Watson was no luckier than her compatriot (AP)
Date-Krumm, who is 10 years older than the next most senior player in the women's draw, reached the semi-finals here 20 years ago. Her world ranking peaked at No 4 in 1995, two years before Bencic was born. She returned to tennis in 2008 after taking a 12-year break from the sport.

Bencic, who won two Grand Slam junior titles last year, at the French Open and Wimbledon, is coached by Martina Hingis's mother, Melanie Molitor. "I was a little bit nervous in the beginning," Bencic said. "It was special."

Robson and Watson have both entered new coaching arrangements in an attempt to revive their fortunes. Robson now trains in Florida with Nick Saviano and Jesse Witten, but the British No 1 has hardly had a chance to show what she can do after suffering a wrist injury at the end of last year. Today was her first completed match for more than three months and her lack of match sharpness was evident in an erratic display.

"It's a tough one today, but everyone has those kind of days and you have to just come back from them stronger," Robson said afterwards. "It was up and down the whole time, and I don't think I ever really got into a rhythm at all. I wasn't really able to deal with her slice that well. It just didn't go well."


Watson is also on her way home to Guernsey but could take plenty of satisfaction from her efforts here as she attempts to rebuild her ranking after a year disrupted by glandular fever. Watson won three matches in qualifying last week and kept Hantuchova, a former world No 5, on court for more than two and a half hours.

Although Watson felt it was a missed opportunity, she added: "I've played 10 matches this year already. If you'd told me that last year I would have taken it in a second. Even though I might be dropping in the rankings, I'm not worried about it because I feel like I've had a good start to the year. I've improved as a player and it's been a positive few weeks."

Watson is pleased with the work she has done with her new coach, Diego Veronelli. "We haven't been working together for very long but already I've learned so much from Diego," she said. "One thing that really stands out that I wanted to add to my game was the slice and we've been working on that. We worked on that every single day during the off-season. I haven't used it a lot because it takes time to add to your game, but I've used it a few times in my matches and it's really happened."

The world No 121 said she was not concerned with her ranking, "as long as it doesn't get too low".

She added: "I feel like sometimes it's a good thing playing lower down, winning matches and getting confidence. I think what I need right now is matches."

Suggested Topics
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing