Robson comes of age on the big stage – and says there is more to come
Laura Robson secured her place as a footnote in the history books as Kim Clijsters' final opponent – but the 18-year-old Briton's victory over the former world No 1 also marked a significant moment in her own career.
Robson's 7-6, 7-6 triumph at the US Open put her through to the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time and demonstrated to the world the depth of talent that was first revealed when she won junior Wimbledon at the age of 14.
Robson, who now plays another former Grand Slam champion in Li Na, has always relished the big occasion. She was intimidated neither by facing one of the game's most popular and successful players in her farewell tournament, nor by playing in the 23,000-capacity Arthur Ashe Stadium, the biggest venue in world tennis.
"I've always loved playing on a big stage," Robson said afterwards. "I thrive in a good atmosphere and I feel like I play better on big courts and I have a lot of support. And because it's easier, too, when you have less pressure on you."
The youngest player in the world's top 100, Robson is arguably the game's most exciting new talent. Andy Murray, who partnered her in mixed doubles at the Olympics, summed up her qualities.
"She's got very easy power and great timing," Murray said. "She hits the ball great when she's in a good position. I think if she keeps improving on her movement, she's going to be a very, very good player."
Clijsters agreed. "She hits the ball so cleanly," the Belgian said. "Physically if she gets better, even more explosive, then I think she's going to be a great player."
While Robson's power has never been in doubt, her movement around the court has been regarded as her biggest weakness. Against Clijsters, however, the improvement in her speed and agility was clear as she kept forcing the three-times US Open champion – who had not lost a match here for nine years – to hit the extra ball.
"I've done quite a bit of tactical stuff recently, which I feel has made more of a difference, but I've also worked very hard on my speed," Robson said. "I think that has improved the most in the last year. I feel confident enough in my movement to run down a lot more balls. I think I'm making the points a bit tougher for my opponents."
Robson recently appointed a new coach, Zeljko Krajan, who guided Dinara Safina to No 1 in the world rankings. The Croatian will have his work cut out preparing Robson to face Li, the 2011 French Open champion, who has had an excellent summer on hard courts, winning in Cincinnati and reaching the final in Montreal.
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