Robson wins first Australia qualifier as seeds announced - Tennis - Sport - The Independent

Robson wins first Australia qualifier as seeds announced

Laura Robson has kept alive her hopes of reaching the main draw at the Australian Open after winning her opening qualifying match today.

The 15-year-old Briton defeated Australia's Sophie Ferguson 6-4 2-6 6-4 in a match that lasted two hours and 11 minutes.



Robson, ranked 406 in the world, was handed a wildcard entry into qualifying last week after she teamed with Andy Murray to help Great Britain reach the final of the Hopman Cup.



The teenager defeated Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, the world number 26, in the final in Perth to underline her growing status.



Robson was, however, below her best today as she battled 44 unforced errors to eventually overcome a player ranked over 250 places higher than her.



Next up for Robson will be 21-year-old Michaella Krajicek who reached the third round at the Australian Open in 2006.



Robson must negotiate two more rounds of qualifying to reach the main draw.

Meanwhile, the returning Justine Henin will be the player others want to avoid at the Australian Open draw tomorrow after tournament officials confirmed the seven-time grand slam champion would not be seeded.



The Belgian made her return from a 20-month retirement in sensational style last week when she won the Brisbane International following an epic final against compatriot Kim Clijsters.



Henin will not, however, be seeded at Melbourne Park because she has not yet competed in enough tournaments to qualify for a world ranking.



The Australian Open traditionally seeds players based solely on their ranking and while officials have discretionary powers to assign seedings as they deem appropriate, tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed they would not veer away from their usual practice.



"If we changed the seedings this year, who knows what the situation might be a year from now?" Tiley said.



That means Henin, who lifted the Daphne Akhurst trophy in 2004, could be drawn against world number one and defending champion Serena Williams in the opening round.



Henin is one of just two other players in this year's draw besides Williams to have won the Australian Open - the other is Maria Sharapova - although the 27-year-old comes into the tournament under a fitness cloud after she suffered a left gluteal strain in her Brisbane win.



Henin missed this week's event in Sydney in an attempt to ensure her fitness for the season's first grand slam.



Clijsters will also pose as a potential wrecking ball in the draw, after she made a memorable return of her own to win the US Open last year.



The 26-year-old, who will be seeded 15, beat Williams in a controversial semi-final en route to her success and the American is wary of the returning duo.



"With the two young Belgian ladies back, women's tennis is the most competitive it's been in a long time," said Williams.



"I don't think anyone is surprised anymore with what Kim was able to do, and Justine.



"I have no pressure on myself. My goal is to do well, obviously. But I mean, I can't put too much pressure on myself winning or losing.



"If I play the best I can play, I've always said I'm very difficult to beat."



In the men's draw Andy Murray's decision to forgo his Doha title defence last week could prove costly after his world ranking this week dropped to number five.



The Scot opted to fly to Australia early to compete at the Hopman Cup in Perth and while he and playing partner Laura Robson reached the final at the mixed teams event, there were no rankings points on offer meaning the 22-year-old dropped out of the top four for the first time since August 2008.



Murray could therefore play a top-four player earlier than expected in the quarter-finals and in a worst-case scenario would have to defeat world number one Roger Federer, reigning champion Rafael Nadal and world number three Novak Djokovic to break his grand slam duck.



Murray was not concerned, however, by the prospect earlier this week when he said he was more concerned with reaching the latter stages rather than concerning himself with who may await him there.



"If you get to the quarter-finals you're going to have to beat the best players anyway," he said.



"Maybe it will be one more than normal but you're banking on the top four seeds getting to the quarter-finals and you never know.



"There are always some surprises in there and I need to make sure I get there myself first."



Federer is due to be the top seed as he goes in search of his fourth title in Melbourne.



The 28-year-old Swiss lost to Nadal in last year's final and the Australian Open is the grand slam to have eluded the right-handed maestro the longest having not lifted it since 2007.



Nadal is set to be the number two seed ahead of 2008 winner Djokovic and Martin del Potro, who won his first grand slam last time out at the US Open.



The draw will take place at Melbourne Park at 10.45am local time on Friday (11.45pm GMT, Thursday).





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