Laura, Princess of Wimbledon

David Randall
Sunday 06 July 2008 00:00

Thank heaven for little girls. Where Britain's men, women, boys and veterans have all failed to deliver anything more than a passing Wimbledon headline, a 14-year-old local girl yesterday brought a success-starved nation its first singles title in nigh on a quarter of a century when she won the junior championship on Court One.

Laura Robson, the youngest player in the competition, beat Thailand's Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, two years her senior and the third seed, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. It was, as the scoreline of the final set suggests, in the end a comprehensive victory earned by our girl's stronger serve and forceful ground shots. Her composure held up well, too, and throughout the match she had a determined, mature look that belied her years. Until, that is, the moment when victory was hers. Then, suddenly, her face broke into that of a beaming schoolgirl. She was still wearing it as she left the court clutching her trophy – a surprisingly small thing for so big a championship. It looked, in the arms of this sportsgirl, like an ornate egg-cup with handles.

Never mind, Laura – or "Miss L Robson", as the Wimbledon scoreboard so archaically has her – becomes the first Briton to win a singles title here since Annabel Croft won this event in 1984. Of course, there are some who have looked at Laura's genealogy and suggested that there may be grounds for some doubt about the extent to which she is totally British. They say her parents are Australian, her birthplace Australia, her early childhood was spent in Singapore, and her coach is Dutch. But we're claiming her. She lives in Wimbledon, can walk to the All England club, trains at the British National Tennis Centre, and represents the UK. Besides, we need her. So there.

She has responded magnificently to that national yearning, pathetic at times though it may be. Her chief scalp as she progressed to the final was that of top seed Melanie Oudin of the US, fully three years her senior, whom she beat 6-1, 6-3 on Monday. Her parents, however, know how to keep the left-hander's feet on the ground, including, according to her mother, being made to stack the dishes. And, after Laura's victory on Wednesday evening, she was not allowed to give a press conference "because it was past her bedtime".

Apart from being a tennis genius, Laura is studying for GCSEs, does an hour's fitness training every day and plays the saxophone. All she lacks is a sense of history. Asked in one of her press conferences: "Are you aware of the last great British woman player?", she replied, "I believe that was Virginia Wade or someone quite a long time ago." Yes, Laura; far too long ago. So now – for yourself, for mum and dad, and also for us poor tennis-success-starved Brits, go get 'em, girl.

Meanwhile, in the over-18s women's final, with the small matter of a Grand Slam title and £750,000 at stake, two American sisters competed. The older one won.

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