Briton's Laura Robson confirms status as the most thrilling talent in women's tennis

'I never gave up,' says young Briton after gutsy, three-hour win over world No 8 Kvitova at Australian Open

Melbourne Park

If there were any remaining doubts about Laura Robson's status as the most exciting young talent in women's tennis they evaporated into the hot night air here at the Australian Open yesterday.

A stunning 2-6, 6-3, 11-9 victory over Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion and world No 8, sent the 18-year-old Briton into the third round of the year's opening Grand Slam event. More importantly, it confirmed that she now needs to fear nobody in the women's game.

It was a remarkable match, littered with errors but also full of thunderous shots by two of the sport's biggest hitters. Robson recovered from 3-0 and 4-2 down in a see-saw third set, failed to serve out for the match when she led 6-5, but completed her victory in convincing fashion after breaking the 22-year-old Czech for the last time.

The three-hour contest, played in the main Rod Laver Arena in front of a crowd who were overwhelmingly behind the Melbourne-born Robson, finished at 12.30 in the morning. On a day when the temperature peaked at 40C, it was still in the thirties by the time Kvitova failed to return Robson's final serve of the match.

"I never gave up," an exhausted Robson said afterwards. "Even when she went up a break twice in the third, I just thought: 'I can always break her serve, I just have to get as many returns in as I can.' And in the end, I just thought: 'I've got nothing to lose, so I'm just going to relax on my serve a bit more and just go for it'."

Kvitova, who has had a poor start to the year, said: "I don't think I've ever served so badly. I was up and down the whole match. Laura surprised me with her serve. It took me a while to get used to it because she's a left-hander. She tried to play very fast, the same way that I do. Our games are quite similar."

Robson has to win one more match here to emulate her performance at last year's US Open, when she beat two Grand Slam champions in Kim Clijsters and Li Na to reach the fourth round, but she rated this as her hardest-fought victory.

"I would say all the wins are equally satisfying, but this one was probably the toughest in terms of how long the match was and how up and down it was," she said. "I feel I was playing better in New York. I thought today was pretty ugly, but in terms of how tough it was to close it out in the end, I think it's right up there with one of the best wins."

Her reward is a place in the third round against Sloane Stephens, which promises to be a fascinating confrontation between two of the game's most exciting young talents. Stephens, who is just 10 months older than Robson, is one of a group of emerging young American players. The world No 25, who has been taken under Serena Williams' wing, beat Robson in straight sets in their only meeting at senior level in Hobart last week.

Robson's victory means that two British women have reached the third round of a Grand Slam event for the first time since the 1991 US Open. Heather Watson was due to play Agnieszka Radwanska in the opening match of today's programme. The performances of the two Britons here should see both of them climb at least 10 places in the world rankings. Watson is currently No 50 and Robson No 53.

With Andy Murray also securing his place in the last 32 with a convincing victory over Portugal's Joao Sousa, Britain's tally of three players in the third round of singles competition here is bettered by only five other countries.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



Next up? Sloane Stephens, an American idol in the making

Sloane Stephens, Laura Robson's opponent in the third round of the Australian Open tomorrow, grew up with posters of Serena Williams on her bedroom wall. In future it could be the 15-times Grand Slam champion who has Stephens as her idol.

"I watch her a lot because I'm actually a Sloane Stephens fan," Williams said. "She's a good player, serves well, runs really well, and she doesn't miss."

Although only 5ft 7in tall, Stephens is a fine athlete and excellent all-round player. Last year the American reached two semi-finals on the main women's tour and performed consistently in Grand Slam tournaments, reaching the fourth round at the French Open and the third round at both Wimbledon and the US Open. At 19 she is already up to No 25 in the world rankings.

Americans see her as the natural successor to the Williams sisters, and Serena in particular has given her regular support and advice.

When Stephens is not training alongside Serena in Los Angeles or competing in tournaments, she returns home to Coral Springs, Florida, where she lives with her mother, who was a champion college swimmer. Her natural father, a former American footballer, died three years ago in a car accident, while her stepfather, who inspired her to start playing tennis when she was nine, died of cancer some years earlier.

Robson and Stephens know each other from their junior days. "I wouldn't say it's a rivalry but we are the same age so I guess it is," Stephens said. "It's not like Nadal and Federer – but it could be."

Paul Newman

Brits at the double: Best recent Slam

Laura Robson's victory, following Heather Watson's win the previous day, gave Great Britain two women in the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time since 1991.

That year's US Open saw both Jo Durie and Sara Gomer reach the last 32 at Flushing Meadows, with Durie going on to reach the fourth round. Gomer exited to eventual champion Monica Seles, while Durie overcame 15th seed Helena Sukova before going out in the last 16 to home favourite Jennifer Capriati.

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer the industry can flesh out an existence
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable