Laura's challenge ends in breathless failure

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The Independent Online

Laura Robson's attempt to become the youngest Briton ever to qualify for the US Open ended in bitter disappointment here at Flushing Meadow last night. The 2008 junior Wimbledon champion, who will not be 16 until January, led the Czech Republic's Eva Hrdinova 4-0 in the third set only to lose 7-6 4-6 7-6 after a remarkable match lasting more than three hours. Elena Baltacha, the other Briton attempting to qualify, also went out, losing 4-6 6-2 6-3 to Australia's Anastasia Rodionova.

Robson's was a match of constantly changing fortunes. Hrdinova, 257 places higher in the world rankings at No 203, led by a set overnight, rain having halted proceedings on Friday evening, and was soon 3-0 up in the second set. Robson clawed her way back, winning 10 of the next 11 games, only to lose the next five in succession.

The Briton broke again to lead 6-5, but made three double faults when she served for the match. She saved two match points in the tie-break before Hrdinova hit a forehand winner to take it 7-4.

Hrdinova, 25, was bigger and stronger, but Robson was much the better player technically. She struggled with her serve, however, hitting 22 double faults, including 13 in the final set. Hrdinova, with 19 double faults, was not much better.

Robson, who beat higher-ranked players in the first two rounds and will play in the junior tournament next week, admitted that the occasion had got to her. "I was just focusing on not having a panic attack," she said. "It just got to the point where I was even having trouble breathing. It's pretty hard to play tennis when you can't breathe.

"I was lucky enough to get a wild card into qualifying. I'm just glad that something as unfortunate as this happened in the qualifying now rather than in two years' time in the main draw."

Robson made her senior Grand Slam debut two months ago at Wimbledon, where she took Daniela Hantuchova, the world No 32, to three sets.

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