Serena Williams identified Laura Robson as a player with the complete package as she talked up Britain's teenage tennis prodigy yesterday. Robson achieved the rare feat for a 17-year-old of winning a match in the main draw at Wimbledon when she beat Germany's Angelique Kerber in the first round.
The youngster has been tipped for a bright future since winning the girls' title at Wimbledon in 2008, and, after a few wobbles, looks to be coming good on her promise.
She has had to cope with growing pains after shooting up several inches to 5ft 11in in the past year, but reigning Wimbledon champion Williams considers her a player of enormous potential. "I see her a lot here," Williams said. "I think she's a good player, an all-around good player.
"First of all she's a lefty, which automatically puts you a step ahead. I always wanted to be a lefty. Can you imagine? And she moves well. She hits hard. She has a good serve. She just does everything so well. And to be so young, I can't believe she's only 17."
It would be unfair to expect the same success from Robson that Williams achieved as a 17-year-old. "I had a lot of family support," Williams said. "I think I won the US Open that year. I think I'd been on tour for a year by then."
Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon at 17 in 2004, and Martina Hingis triumphed as a 16-year-old in 1997. But the women's game has changed, with few teenagers making the breakthrough to the highest level.
There are just five teens in the top 100, all aged 19, with another 19-year-old, Britain's Heather Watson, lurking just outside. Robson is 254th in the world but expected to soar before long as she chases a single-figure ranking.
Williams says "More power to Laura", but she cannot put her finger on why the game is currently being dominated by players in their 20s and 30s. She said: "I don't know. Everyone was young then. Now everyone's just doing better older."
After shedding a few tears at the end of her comeback match earlier in the week, Williams displayed her tender side again yesterday when she spoke of her meeting with five-year-old cancer sufferer Jack Marshall during this year's championship.
"I kind of met him on Twitter. His mum Tracey wrote to me. I read his story, and my heart kind of went out for him," the 13-times grand slam champion said after securing a place in the third round by beating Romania's Simona Halep.
"I thought if I made it to Wimbledon, I wanted to invite Jack out. I got to meet him yesterday. We spent some time together," she said of Manchester United fan Jack.
"They gave me one of his bands that I can wear and you can help him. It's just been so amazing, his whole story, to be so small, to have such courage. He calls me his best bud, so I love it."
After a year battling a serious foot injury and then suffering life-threatening blood clots Williams has been in a serene mood since returning at Eastbourne last week.
However, the emotional effects of her longest ever break from tennis caught up with her on Tuesday when she wept on court after beating Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai in round one.Reuse content