Laura Robson has been hailed as the future of British tennis and the 19-year-old did much to salvage its current reputation here last night when her first-round victory saved the home contingent from equalling their worst-ever performance at Wimbledon. Robson joined Andy Murray, her mixed doubles partner at last summer's Olympics, as the only Britons to reach the second round of singles competition when she recorded a memorable 6-3, 6-4 victory over Russia's Maria Kirilenko, the world No 10.
Robson, who has beaten three Grand Slam champions in Grand Slam tournaments over the last year, added to her repertoire of big-occasion victories with an accomplished performance against a highly experienced opponent who was playing in the French Open quarter-finals only three weeks ago.
"It was a big one for me because, although I really like grass and I seem to play well on it, I've never actually done overly well here," Robson said afterwards. "I've only made the second round once. It was good that I managed to tough it out after I got nervous in the second set.
"I think I go out against the top players with nothing to lose. I've always been like that. In the past I've started out well in the first couple of games of the first set and then just not been able to hold on to that lead. I've been really happy with my progress with that in the last couple of months."
Asked where the win ranked compared with some of her other big victories, Robson said: "Any top 10 win is a good win, so it's obviously up there. I went into the match very confident. I think if you go into these matches without confidence, then you shouldn't be going out there."
But for Robson's victory the host nation would have had only one player through to the second round in singles for only the second time in Wimbledon history. Six Britons lost in the first round on Monday and Heather Watson and Tara Moore followed them out of the tournament. Watson was beaten 6-3, 7-5 by Madison Keys, of the United States, while Moore went down 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 despite a courageous display against Estonia's Kaia Kanepi.
"Wimbledon is a massive tournament, so if you don't do well, then it's disappointing," Robson said when asked about the British performances. "I think everyone had tough matches. Before this week, everyone was playing really well, so it's unfortunate that no one else made the second round. But that happens sometimes."