Robson's Vegemite preference earns admiration in Oz

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Some Australians would like to claim Laura Robson as one of their own. The junior Wimbledon champion, who has just celebrated her 15th birthday, was born here but considers herself as British as strawberries and cream, her family having left Australia when she was 18 months old.

Nevertheless when she was asked yesterday what some in these parts would regard as the ultimate test of national loyalty – "Vegemite or Marmite?" – Robson's preference for the Australian brand drew an ecstatic response from a local journalist. "She's an Aussie!" he cried gleefully.

Just as she did at Wimbledon last summer, Robson is taking all the attention that surrounds her like a Hollywood veteran. Court 21 at Melbourne Park drew a large crowd for her first match in the Australian Open junior event and Robson responded by beating highly-rated American Christina McHale 7-5, 6-3.

McHale, 16, led Robson 5-2 in the first set, but the Briton's powerful ground strokes, penetrating serve and intelligent tactics won the day.

Afterwards, faced with a room full of journalists, Robson avoided making any unforced errors. When asked if she felt any affinity with Melbourne she replied: "I'm struggling with the heat. But other than that it's a really nice city."

Having spent Christmas with her grandparents in Western Australia ("at Albany, where the population is 20"), Robson has been staying with her sister, who lives in Melbourne.

How did she spend Christmas Day? "I went for about a two-hour bike ride. It wasn't my decision, but the whole family were doing it. I don't usually go for bike rides on Christmas Day. I usually just sit in my pyjamas all day."