Nearly 18 months after she played her last match at a Grand Slam tournament, Laura Robson will return to the biggest stage of all next week. Having completed her first comeback match on Saturday since undergoing wrist surgery more than a year ago, the former British No 1 received the news she had been hoping for when Wimbledon awarded her a wild card.
After repeatedly putting her return on hold, Robson finally made it on to court in the first qualifying round for this week’s Aegon International at Eastbourne. Although she was beaten 6-0, 6-1 in less than an hour by the world No 41, Russia’s Daria Gavrilova, Robson was happy simply to have got through her first match since she lost in the first round of last year’s Australian Open.
Robson, who has been out for so long that she does not even have a world ranking, knows she faces a long road ahead as she attempts to recover all the ground she has lost in the last year and a half, but at least she is happy that her wrist has healed.
Returning to Wimbledon, where she took the junior title in 2008, won her Olympic mixed doubles silver medal playing alongside Andy Murray in 2012 and reached the fourth round in 2013, should lift her spirits further. It is certainly a show of faith by the All England Club given her crushing defeat on Saturday.
“It’s my home tournament and it’s my favourite tournament of the year for sure,” Robson said. “I’ve noticed every day as I’ve been playing points that [my wrist] has been getting better and better. It will continue to do so.”
Asked where she would like to be in a year’s time, Robson said: “I’d like to be back where I was before I was injured, if not better. I know I can if I put the work in – and I definitely will do that. We’ll see how it goes over the next six months first and I’ll try and play as many matches as I can.”
She added: “As soon as I’m finished with the mini grass-court season that I’m doing I’m going to go back over to Florida to train and play a lot of smaller tournaments and kind of start progressing upwards again rather than playing big WTA events like this.”
As the main draw matches at Eastbourne got under way, Britain’s Jo Konta maintained her run of good form with an excellent 6-3, 6-2 victory over Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas, the world No 34. Konta, the world No 139, had never beaten an opponent ranked as high before.
Konta reached the quarter-finals at Nottingham the week before last and won one match last week at Edgbaston before losing to the eventual runner-up, Karolina Pliskova. Her next opponent at Devonshire Park will be Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova, the world No 8.
Britain’s Naomi Broady, who, like Konta, was in the draw courtesy of a wild card, nearly pulled off a major surprise at Eastbourne before losing 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 to Sloane Stephens, the world No 42. The break points were the key to the outcome: Stephens converted four of her five, while Broady, the world No 208, won four of her 11.
Two more home players are in action on Monday. Heather Watson, who is in the tournament by dint of her world ranking, plays Varvara Lepchenko, of the United States, and Harriet Dart, who has another wild card, meets Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova, last year’s Australian Open runner-up.
Angelique Kerber won her third title of the year when she beat Pliskova in a hard-fought final in the Aegon Classic at Edgbaston. The German won 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 after more than two and a quarter hours to claim the sixth title of her career. Kerber had 16 break points in the match but Pliskova defended well, saving 12 of them.
“I think this one is really special for me because it’s the first title on grass for me, and here in Birmingham I had a great week,” Kerber said afterwards. “I didn’t have a lot of expectations here. I came here to have a lot of matches before Wimbledon. That will also be my goal in Eastbourne.”Reuse content