Robson to begin Australia qualification

Britain's Laura Robson will tonight begin her bid to qualify for the Australian Open.

The 15-year-old faces Australian Sophie Ferguson in the first round of the qualifying tournament at Melbourne Park and will have to overcome a gap of over 250 places in the world rankings.

Robson, who performed well alongside Andy Murray in the Hopman Cup last week, is 406th in the WTA rankings, whereas 23-year-old Ferguson is 148th.

Should Robson win in a match likely to start at around midnight GMT, she would be two victories away from securing a place in the first round. Last year she won two rounds in qualifying for the US Open before falling in a final-set tie-break to Eva Hrdinova.

British number five Naomi Cavaday takes on Russia's Alexandra Panova, however her chances of qualifying appear slim as the winner of the first-round match can expect to face Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer in the next round.

World number 16 Wickmayer won the ASB Classic tournament in Auckland on Sunday but has had to go through qualifying for the Australian Open because a one-year ban for a doping offence was lifted after the Melbourne main draw line-up was confirmed.

Wickmayer was initially suspended from the sport for failing to advise Belgian officials of her whereabouts, under drug-testing rules, but the ban has been put on hold as she mounts an appeal.

British number four Mel South also faces a difficult task, having been drawn against qualifying third seed Shenay Perry, an American who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2006.