US Open 2015: Laura Robson has rare chance in major event after injury

The former British No 1 missed more than 16 months with a wrist injury

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Her position at No 618 in the world rankings tells its own story of the hard work ahead of her but Laura Robson will go into her first-round match here at the US Open today feeling in much better shape than when she started her comeback earlier this summer at Eastbourne and Wimbledon.

The former British No 1 missed more than 16 months with a wrist injury before losing first time out on both her appearances when she made a tentative return during the grass-court season. She has since played four tournaments on hard courts and now takes on Russia’s Elena Vesnina, the world No 108, in her first match here for two years.

“I feel a lot fitter, a lot more mentally able to compete with these girls,” Robson said. “I feel like my tennis is just so much better than it was at Wimbledon. Nothing can make up for actual matches, so I’ve entered singles and doubles at every event I’ve played in so far. Even if it’s doubles, just getting into that match feeling, preparing for it, being on court, even chair umpires and stuff, you just have to get used to it again.”

After Wimbledon Robson played in three minor International Tennis Federation tournaments in Canada. She won only one match and was also hampered briefly by a stomach problem, but played well last week in New Haven, where she lost a marathon match to Christina McHale, the world No 59.

Robson said she had no problems with her wrist. “Even before Wimbledon I was totally happy with it,” she said. “The strength is back to where it was before I got injured. I’ll probably always do rehab on it, just to keep everything going. Just like any other joint, you still do rehab on it, but it doesn’t mean it hurts.”

Based on her current position, Robson’s world ranking would not be high enough to get her into the main draw or even qualifying for events on the Women’s Tennis Association tour, let alone at Grand Slam level. Instead it gains her entry only to enter smaller tournaments on the lower-tier ITF circuit.

However, for 12 months after their return following lengthy absences players are able to enter up to eight tournaments with a “protected” world ranking. They can also take up to six wild cards. Robson, a former world No 27, is playing here with her protected ranking but does not expect to use it again this year. The former Wimbledon junior champion is planning to enter only ITF tournaments, mostly in the United States and Mexico.

“I’d prefer not to use any protected tournaments or wild cards for the rest of the year,” Robson said. “I’m saving them for next year, when I [will hopefully] feel a lot better about my game and I’ve had so many more matches behind me. I have it in my head that I would start using them again when I’m [ranked] between 100 and 200.”

Although Robson insists she is aware of the need to work her way back up from the bottom, she has always had a reputation as a big-occasion player, as demonstrated by her excellent record here. Three years ago she reached the fourth round after victories over two Grand Slam champions in Kim Clijsters and Li Na.

How was she coping with defeats at minor tournaments against opponents she knows she should be beating if she was at the top of her game? “It involves a lot of positive words from my coach [Mauricio Hadad],” Robson said. “Trying not to over-think it. Trying not to say ‘I’m a terrible player’ just because I lost this one match to someone who is ranked such-and-such. Because when you look at it, I’m ranked lower than they are. It’s going to take time and losing is part of that.”

Robson, who is now based for much of the year in Florida, admitted that she was trying to view her glass as half-full rather than half-empty, which had been her natural tendency in the past. “It helps when you live in America because everyone is so pumped. My coach is also just the most positive guy in the world and having happy, positive people around you and wanting to get better – it just becomes a natural change.”

Andy Murray also plays his first match here today, against Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who has benefited from the assistance of his fellow countryman, Lleyton Hewitt, who is playing at the tournament he won 14 years ago for the last time.

“Having Lleyton on court helped me a lot,” Kyrgios said. “I feel like I’ve been practising well. My preparation’s been really good and I feel like I’m playing some really good tennis.”

Murray has won all three of their previous meetings but Kyrgios believes he can reverse that form. “I know what his strengths are and know how to play it,” he said. “I just have to execute it on the day.”