How Laura Robson found the guts to go for glory

Briton has always had talent but win over Kvitova shows she has gained a hard edge

Laura Robson called it "an ugly match" but in years to come she will surely view it as a beautiful memory. The 18-year-old Briton's 2-6, 6-3, 11-9 victory here yesterday over Petra Kvitova in the second round of the Australian Open was testament as much to her character as to her ball-striking ability.

If Robson's talent for belting huge groundstrokes and thunderous serves has never been in doubt, there have been questions in the past about her willingness to tough it out when the going gets difficult. Not any more. In the last year the 2008 junior Wimbledon champion, under the careful guidance of her Croatian coach, Zeljko Krajan, has made major progress in both her fitness and her readiness to make her opponents fight for every point.

In Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, Robson was facing a mirror image. Like the Briton, the Czech makes up for any lack of athleticism with her bold hitting. By Robson's admission, it did not make for the most elegant of matches. Rallies were short and sharp and all too often settled by mistakes.

As a spectacle, nevertheless, it was compelling and thousands of spectators stayed until well after midnight to watch the conclusion. Robson was born in Melbourne and, although she lived here for less than two years, she is popular with the crowds.

Robson said she had been "super-excited" to play in a night session on the main show court, the Rod Laver Arena, Roger Federer having started the evening programme with a victory over Nikolay Davydenko. "I always wanted to play in a night match," she said. "Fed wasn't taking that long this evening so it wasn't too bad. I had an afternoon nap, so it was all good."

With both players striking the ball with great power, it was a match high on winners (25 to Robson, 42 to Kvitova) and unforced errors (41 by Robson, 51 by Kvitova). The hit-or-miss formula also applied to their serves: Robson hit eight aces and 12 double-faults, while Kvitova hit 18 of each.

Kvitova said afterwards that she could not remember having served so poorly, but it was Robson who opened the match with two successive double-faults, dropping her serve to love. Two more breaks helped Kvitova to take the first set with something to spare, but in the second it was Robson who took control, breaking twice in a row to gain a decisive 5-1 lead.

The momentum had appeared to shift in Robson's favour, but Kvitova came out shooting from the hip in the decider. The Czech led 3-0 and 4-2 and was within two points of victory when Robson served at 4-5, but the Briton fought back.

At 6-5, Robson served for the match, only to play a loose game and let her opponent off. By this stage, Robson's ball toss was starting to go awry, but it was Kvitova who regularly came under pressure on her serve.

Although the Czech said the heat had not been a factor, she has often struggled in difficult playing conditions. By the end of the third set she was sweating profusely – the temperature was still 32C at midnight – and looking increasingly strained.

Robson, in contrast, maintained her composure from start to finish. At 9-9 she broke serve again, cracking a fine return winner down the line. When she served for victory this time, there were no mistakes. "I started off very up and down," Robson said afterwards. "You know it's going to be a pretty ugly match when you start off with two double-faults. I thought: 'I've really got to dig in here.'

"You can't win a set when you're playing five unforced errors compared to every winner. At the start of the second set I knew that I just had to play with more consistency and with more percentage. That's what I did.

"She's someone who's never going to give you a lot of rhythm because she takes the ball so early. I just had to try to get as many balls back as I could, and I was pretty disappointed with myself in how I tried to serve out at 6-5 in the third. I just gave her a bit too much time on the ball."

Robson, who had never finished a match so late, admitted she was "a bit tired" and "looking forward to going back to my apartment and sleeping".

Asked whether she had always had such an impressive fighting spirit, Robson said: "I'd like to think so. Definitely when I played my brother in Monopoly all hell broke loose. But, yes, I think some matches you just lose the belief a little bit, whereas this one I felt like I could always win."

Robson round-up: Laura's statistics

26 Years since a British woman – Jo Durie – last reached the third round of consecutive Slams.

8 Aces served by Robson yesterday – against Kvitova's 18.

12 Double-faults by Robson yesterday – against Kvitova's total of 18.

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
and  

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

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence