Laura Robson handed a tough return to action against Daria Gavrilova

 

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The Independent Online

If Laura Robson’s strategy in taking a wild card into qualifying for next week’s Aegon International at Eastbourne was to avoid some of the more dangerous potential opponents, the former British No 1 might have hoped for an easier draw.

Robson’s (pictured above, via Instagram) first match for 17 months following wrist surgery will be against Daria Gavrilova, who as the world No 41 is the top seed in the qualifying competition. The 21-year-old Russian, who lives in Melbourne, would have got into the main draw at Eastbourne if she had been at her current ranking when entries closed.

Going into last month’s Rome tournament on clay, however, Gavrilova was ranked No 78 in the world. Belinda Bencic and Ana Ivanovic were among her victims as she reached the semi-finals before losing to Maria Sharapova.

She won her first-round match in the French Open against Johanna Larsson before retiring hurt against Sabine Lisicki with a torn abdominal muscle.

Gavrilova.jpg
Daria Gavrilova

Gavrilova is only 5ft 5in tall but packs a decent punch, although she does not have much of a record on grass. Today’s match will be her first of the season on the surface.

Robson, who has never played Gavrilova before, preferred to take a wild card into qualifying rather than into the main draw, presumably in the hope of facing less challenging opposition.

However, with 13 of the world’s top 20 in the main draw – in which the lowest ranked acceptance was Alison Riske, the world No 46 – the qualifying competition is extremely strong.

If Robson beat Gavrilova she would then have to defeat the winner of the match between Lesia Tsurenko (world No 68) and Marina Erakovic (No 90) to qualify for the main draw.

Today’s semi-finals of the Aegon Classic at Edgbaston will see an all-German confrontation between Lisicki and Angelique Kerber, while France’s Kristina Mladenovic will take on the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova.

Mladenovic pulled off the biggest surprise yesterday when she beat Simona Halep, the top seed, 2-6, 6-0, 7-6. Nevertheless, she faces a tough match against Pliskova, who crushed Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-2. “She’s in super form and she’s also a very good friend of mine on the tour,” Mladenovic said. “For sure it will be a very difficult match.”

Pliskova lost first time out on her two previous visits to Edgbaston but has found her form this week. “I’ve always liked grass, but Birmingham wasn’t my best place and best tournament for me till now,” the world No 12 said.

In the other quarter-finals Lisicki beat Daniela Hantuchova 7-6, 6-2, while Kerber beat Katerina Siniakova  6-2, 6-4.

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