Wrist problems are among the injuries that tennis players fear the most, but Max Eisenbud, the “super-agent” who welcomed Laura Robson into his stable last summer, is “100 per cent confident” that the Briton will make a full recovery following her decision to have surgery.
The 20-year-old Robson, who has been unable to play for the last three months, is to have an operation on her injured left wrist at the Mayo Clinic in the United States. She will miss both the French Open and Wimbledon and, as a consequence, looks certain to drop outside the world’s top 100, a major blow given that she had climbed to a career-high position at No 27 in the rankings last summer.
Eisenbud, who does not want to speculate on when Robson might return, knows all about helping a player to come back following injury through his work with Maria Sharapova. The Russian, who under Eisenbud’s guidance has become the world’s highest-earning sportswoman, was out for nine months after undergoing shoulder surgery in 2008 and waited four years to win her next Grand Slam title.
“Maria fought back from a really tough injury,” Eisenbud said. “Her injury was a lot more serious than Laura’s, so I don’t think they’re comparable. It’s not easy for any athlete, but Laura’s been pretty good through this. I’ve been impressed. I’ve been through it with Maria and I know it’s not easy.”
Asked if he remained convinced of Robson’s ability to succeed at the top of the game, Eisenbud added: “I’m 100 per cent certain that Laura will be back. This is just a little bump in the road. I’m 100 per cent confident in her ability. I’m not worried one bit.”
Eisenbud added Robson to his elite stable last summer. He also manages Li Na, the Australian Open champion. Like Sharapova, Li has been hugely successful both on and off the court. Eisenbud recruited Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin’s former coach, to work with the 32-year-old Chinese, who is up to No 2 in the world rankings.
Robson has made frequent changes to her own coaching personnel since parting company four years ago with Martijn Bok, who guided her through most of her junior career. Eisenbud is hoping that her latest appointment will be a long-term success.
Robson is now working with both Mauricio Hadad, who was helping Sharapova when she won Wimbledon in 2004 and more recently coached Heather Watson, and the fitness coach Mark Wellington, another former member of the Russian’s entourage.
Once Robson is back to fitness she will face a major task trying to rebuild her world ranking. Initially at least she will not be ranked high enough to earn a place directly into the most important events, though she is a big draw for tournaments and is certain to be offered some wild cards. However, the lesser tournaments carry fewer ranking points, which could mean months of hard work at some of the sport’s more remote outposts.
Robson will need to shake off her reputation as a player who performs well at the major competitions but fails to perform consistently well on lesser stages.
Watson will be able to tell Robson how hard it can be. The 21-year-old from Guernsey plummeted down the world rankings after going down with glandular fever last year. From a career-high No 39 in the world 14 months ago, Watson fell out of the world’s top 150. She is back up to No 121, but that is not high enough to earn a place in the main draw of Grand Slam tournaments.
While there should be no shortage of British women players at Wimbledon – six Britons are currently ranked in the world’s top 250, which is usually one of the Lawn Tennis Association’s criteria for wild cards – there could be none at next month’s French Open.
Tennis players are more prone to wrist injuries than most athletes because of the very nature of their sport. Recovery can be unpredictable, as Juan Martin del Potro discovered when he was out for more than a year following wrist surgery in the wake of his 2009 US Open triumph.
Robson’s operation will be carried out by Richard Berger, a specialist who has also been treating Del Potro. Berger operated on Del Potro’s right wrist five years ago and repaired ligament damage in the Argentinian’s left wrist in a second operation last month.