US Open: Li Na punishes Laura Robson's slow start to prevent repeat shock
The weather at the US Open is often unpredictable but to Laura Robson's regret lightning did not strike twice here today.
Twelve months after recording her best result at a Grand Slam event when she beat Li Na in the third round, the 19-year-old Briton was unable to produce a repeat performance against the same opponent at the same stage of this year's tournament. Robson never recovered from a slow start and was beaten 6-2, 7-5 after an hour and 21 minutes.
Robson loves playing on the biggest stages and is rarely over-awed by the occasion, but the world No 32 took too long to find her rhythm in the opening match of the day in the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium. Nevertheless, there was no shame in losing to Li, the world No 6, particularly after Robson's difficult build-up to the tournament.
Having suffered a wrist injury while training in Toronto earlier this month, Robson was unable to practise as normal in the build-up to the year's final Grand Slam event and came here having played only two matches since Wimbledon.
Nevertheless, in reaching the third round Robson has lived up to her seeding, having been the first British woman to be seeded at a Grand Slam tournament for 26 years.
The 23,000-capacity Arthur Ashe Stadium was sparsely populated at the start and it took time for the crowd to warm up after a disappointingly one-sided start. Robson dropped her serve in the opening game, trailed 5-1 and lost the first set in just 29 minutes.
However, the Briton's response was good. Robson went 3-0 up in the second set and held firm after Li had levelled at 3-3, only to drop serve at 5-5. From 30-0 up Robson hit a double fault and made three successive errors to give Li the chance to serve for the match. Robson saved one match point before Li converted the second with a splendid kicking second serve ace.
"I thought she played really well," Robson said afterwards. "She didn't give me too many chances in the rally, so I never felt I got a rhythm going with my groundies."
Nevertheless Robson said she felt she was a better player than 12 months ago. "I feel I'm a more confident player as well," she said. "In my first two rounds I thought I played really well and I closed out the matches really well, which is something that has improved a lot over the last 12 months."
Robson will rest her wrist when she returns to Britain. She will also take the opportunity to have her wisdom teeth taken out.
"All the other girls in the locker room are telling me their horror stories," she said with a smile. "Jamie Hampton was trying to scare me. She was like: 'Oh, I couldn't do anything for three weeks'."
After Rafael Nadal moved into the third round for the loss of just three games against Rogerio Dutra Silva, Novak Djokovic joined him by beating Germany's Benjamin Becker 7-6, 6-2, 6-2, though the world No 1 had to save two set points in the first set. Sabine Lisicki, the Wimbledon runner-up, was beaten 6-4, 7-5 by Russia's Ekaterina Makarova.
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