Laura Robson was largely unknown a week ago and now she's the most famous teenager in Britain since Hermione Granger palled up with Harry Potter. She speaks a bit like her too: rather well, and with more than a hint of cheek. And if she keeps on playing like she has done here this week to reach the girls' singles final, veritable wizardry will be expected of her in future.
That is daft, of course. She is 14. She is just starting out really, for all her successes in the juniors. Even though she is on the fast track, she should not be expected to take part in even minor WTA women's events until the back end of next year. But try telling the fortnight-a-year tennis brigade that. Especially when bookmakers are offering odds as ludicrously low as 50-1 that she will win Wimbledon in the next decade.
Yet Robson welcomes the pressure, she insisted last night, after completing an "overwhelming" march into her final today, which will be played on Court No 1 in front of a no doubt massive audience. She progressed by overpowering Slovakia's Romana Tabakova, 6-2, 7-5, on a packed Court Three.
"I try not to think about what people are saying [about her leap to prominence]," she said after beating the Slovakian. "But it's nice in a way because it means that everyone's thinking you are really good so I'm taking it as a compliment.
"This time next year I'd like to be playing seniors and if I win tomorrow I'll be considered for a wild card for next year's Wimbledon. That would be really good."
The American No 1 seed Melanie Oudin and the Serbian Bojana Jovanovski, the No 9 seed, have already fallen victim to Robson, who has yet to drop a set. But she faces another tough test in the final when she faces the No 3 seed from Thailand, Noppawan Lertcheewakarn.
"It feels really, really good to get this far. It's an overwhelming experience," she said. There were so many people watching me today. The crowd and the support is really, really good."
Tabakova's lack of sportsmanship was exposed in the eighth game of the second set when she bamboozled the home favourite with a sly underhand serve. The tactic left Robson stranded at the baseline and earned the Slovakian a chorus of boos from unimpressed spectators. "That was the first time I've ever seen that in my life. But it worked, so fair play to her," said Robson.
"After that point I was thinking that if she's that desperate, I must be in a good situation."
Robson is the first Briton to reach the girls' singles final at Wimbledon since Annabel Croft in 1984. Carl Maes, the LTA's Head of Women's Tennis, has compared Robson with Kim Clijsters, the Belgian former world No 1, whom he coached from the age of 12 and saw reach the Wimbledon junior final 10 years ago.
"Laura plays at the same level as Clijsters did at her age, and on grass, perhaps even a bit better. But that's no guarantee that she'll take the same path. We'll have to see how she copes."
Clijsters won the US Open in 2005, one of 35 singles WTA tour titles, but injury forced her to retire last year at the age of just 23. Maes warned against putting too much pressure on Robson. "The governing body has been looking at not over-exposing players too quickly. But you don't know how people are going to cope with the media attention. She will have to learn how to say no and not get swallowed up by off-court demands."
Or she'll be gone in a flash.Reuse content