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Will US Open success take Robson even higher?

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Jonathan Overend | 22:40 UK time, Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Laura Robson has matured as a tennis player before our eyes over the past few days here in New York.

Greats of the game such as Chris Evert, Billie Jean King and Lindsay Davenport were all saying the same thing: here is a player with a big future in the game and the potential to be a future Grand Slam winner. They should know.

Having sat by the side of Court Four here at Flushing Meadows in recent years and seen Robson blow commanding leads in the final round of qualifying, heartbreaking to witness at close hand, it's so encouraging to see the development in her game.

We mustn't forget that the British teenager is still only 18.

Laura Robson unfurls a forehand during her US Open defeat by Samatha Stosur

Robson is improving all the time and her forehand is an especially potent weapon. Pic: Getty

That Wimbledon Junior title, which flagged up her enormous promise, came at 14. The New York qualifying disappointments came at 15 and 16. Injuries have got in the way of her physical training, but her development has been gradual and effective.

The silver medal Olympic experience appears to have helped with confidence, just as the hiring of new coach Zelko Krajan, formerly with Dinara Safina and Dominika Cibulkova, has focused the winning mentality.

Staying free from injury has been a key factor, allowing her to concentrate on definite improvements to her game.

There's never been a concern about Robson's ball-striking - for a couple of years she's been one of the cleanest hitters on the tour - and this week in New York her groundstrokes were more consistently accurate than before, her returns more intelligent.

But the big improvement has been with her movement, especially side to side across the baseline, in and out of the corners. This has caught the eye of many of the wisest observers of the game, including BBC Radio 5 live pundit Nick Bolletieri.

"She's getting to more balls in the corners," says the former coach of Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Jim Courier. "Now imagine if that picks up another notch and when she gets to those balls she can come up with an offensive shot."

Bolletieri said Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena, had one of the best bits of advice for aspiring players. According to Bollitieri, Williams told his daughters to "run for every ball". When they asked if they should chase balls even when they are out, he responded: "Don't ever say that. Every ball is in."

Bollitieri adds: "You have two sets of eyes - your eyes and your brains. When they work simultaneously, your feet and body move without thought. Whenever you think whether or not you can get a ball, forget about it.

"That's why I believe that quality practice is better than quantity practice. Move your feet for every ball, especially when you hit that slap forehand that's going to bring defensive balls back. If you can't get there and climb on top of it, what's the point in hitting it?

"Laura, you never stopping learning baby."

And there are few better to learn from than the Florida octogenarian. He was so impressed by the way she saved eight match points against Sam Stosur, chasing down balls on which perhaps she would have given up 12 months earlier. That individual heart and desire is something even his renowned academy can't coach.

But he's tweaked a few serves and spots room for improvement with Robson. "She's got to put a little more action on her second serve," he says. "She's got a good slice serve. Now she's got to put a little junk on it once in a while so it quivers in the air."

He flutters his hand around as he says that, and smiles with genuine excitement about what the future may hold for the British number two.

After a brief break at home in London, Robson - who won many new fans in America with her smile and personality as much as her game - will head off for a tour of Asia, with two tournaments in China then two in Japan.

With a new world ranking in the mid-70s, she has a terrific chance to push on over the final few months of the season and further develop the skills she mastered in America.

The challenge will be to forget about her previous life as a player ranked outside 100, playing second-tier tournaments and scrapping around for wins here and there.

Back-to-back victories over Grand Slam winners Kim Clijsters and Li Na, as well as that very decent challenge against defending champion Stosur, have proved that Robson belongs at a world-class level.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I certainly expect her to get into top 10 within next 12-18 months. Whether she can really hit the heights is impossible to tell at this juncture. Tennis history is littered with those who have promised much but never truly delivered. But the signs are good.

  • Comment number 2.

    Far too early even at this stage, the Clijsters win though good was against somebody going out of the game but Li Na is a a top tenner and that was the really great win. I agree that the Olympics and playing with a world class player in Andy Muarry did help. At the moment she still makes too many errors and thats going to hurt. I think that having Heather Watson there as a rival is going to help her, I sort of prefer Watson's game but Robson being more powerful may go further. I think that she can go top 32 for sure.

  • Comment number 3.

    If she can break the top 50 and stay there for 6 months of next year, then by the end of the year she may be even looking at closing in on top 20 by end of the year or early the following year. If she does, she will be well on her way.

    Many players have "potential", but can they realise that potential and turn it into results. I sincerely hope she can and does.

  • Comment number 4.

    Where do people get the idea that her ranking next week will be mid-70s? By my reckoning she has gained 280 points as a R16 loser, and is losing nothing from last year, therefore her total will be 761 (her current total) + 281 = 1041.

    At the moment that would be 57th/58th.

    I realise that there will be shifts due to the gains and losses, but I don't expect the difference between what 1041 gets you now to be much different to what it gets you in a week's time.

    In fact, I suspect that the remaining players in the US Open are all above that level so the maths for these players could be done now and give us an exact figure.

    I must admit, I'm expecting her to be the British No.1 woman player on Monday. Perhaps someone is reading the points table wrongly - I believe the R16 = 280 id for those who lose in R16, as shown here:

    https://www.wtatennis.com/SEWTATour-Archive/Rankings_Stats/howitworks.pdf

    She certainly looks to be on her way. Biggest concern is whether or not the susceptibility to injury is over - that has turned many a promising career into (enforced) mediocrity. Let's hope she stays healthy and lives up to her potential.

    She has shown in the US Open that she could be a top player and she could be there quite soon. Getting to the seeded positions should give her plenty of chances for ranking points avoiding top seeds early on - from there on she has her chance to see where she can get.

  • Comment number 5.

    @4: Looks like she's defending 160 points from last year, for qualifying and reaching the second round. Details can be searched here: https://www.wtatennis.com/page/Player/Activity/0,,12781%7E15680,00.html

    I'm surprised there isn't an "unofficial" up-to-the-minute rankings site where all the maths is done (or not one I can find at least).

  • Comment number 6.

    That would be part of it, although that site seems a bit suspect - says she lost in R64 which should be 100 points not 160? But it's late so maybe it's me.

    I'm also surprised there's not some site that does the maths.

  • Comment number 7.

    As 5 said she got points for qualifying

  • Comment number 8.

    https://www.britishtennis.net/stats.html is brilliant for ranking calculations

  • Comment number 9.

    No 4+6. Qualifying of grandslams is 60 points + 100 for a second round = 160 point to defend, much as we would like her to have gone even higher up the rankings it means she will be mid 70's with others gains and losses.

  • Comment number 10.

    There is an android app which calculates to the minute rankings called 'Tennis Temple' - according to it Laura is currently ranked 73rd..........Which makes her one place above H Watson and now the Brit No 1..........hope this helps...:-)

  • Comment number 11.

    The site below has Laura ranked at 75. It claims to be updated every day.

    https://tenismaclari.com/Siralama/s51_100.html

  • Comment number 12.

    I didn't plan to watch her game agaisnt Clijsters but flicked over to it. As a sport fan who jumps on the tennis bandwagon for each of the slams, I was initially thinking...'oh what's the point in watching this...I want Laura to win but will end up disappointed again.' And to be honest I don't suppose I was being unreasonable with that intital thought. However, I was chuffed to bits when she won, and it clearly wasn't a fluke. Fingers crossed she keeps getting better and better, it's been a while since a British woman has been able to dish out some beatings on the tennis court

  • Comment number 13.

    "Greats of the game such as Chris Evert, Billie Jean King and Lindsay Davenport were all saying the same thing: here is a player with a big future in the game and the potential to be a future Grand Slam winner. They should know."


    No Jonathan. It is called "courtesy". I am sure they usually say similar things about other players when asked.

    Also if you tune into certain sports channels all you see is have-beens heaping praise on players managers and teams for a living for the sake of publicity.

    And I don't think that because someone is/was good at playing a game his/her opinion on others has more value anyway.


    .

  • Comment number 14.

    So it looks like she "might" get into the top 20. Woop de doo. Other than the relative success of this player compared to the shameful level of British tennis generally, WHO CARES if someone might get into the top 20?? Write us an article once shes in the top 20 and might actually WIN something!

  • Comment number 15.

    #14
    If you were top 20 in the world at something that a lot of people were trying to be good at, would you be proud of your achievements?

    Top 20 players in the womens game can win things. Yes, it's a strange game in that the No.1 seed all too often loses by something like 6-1 6-0. I don't know why that is, presumably it's psychological.

    And the tour other than the Slams is an opportunity for her to win lesser tournaments, get into seeded positions and then challenge for the slams.

    It may be that she doesn't get above 20, but you have to get to 20 before you get to 1, so let's see - nothing wrong with hoping. And if she's top 20 in the next year then we will see if she can take the next step. This week she competed blow for blow with the top players - if she continues to do that then she can be top ten and challenging, even now.

    Finally, yes I'm sure pundits are all polite about other players, but you also hear them saying that someone is not realising their potential. Or that they have (say) a big serve and "need to work on the rest of their game". And they also have their coded messages for "top 100 at best" - they're not saying that about LR.

    Having someone with potential for the top of the game is a big thing for us Brits, let's enjoy it while we can rather than pour cold water on our own bonfire. Look at how few countries have anyone at all - I read the online comments in the Canadian papers that someone posted and they were absolutely over the moon about having Raonic to support as he develops. Most were over-hyping his potential and ignoring his weaknesses but they were having fun and they were probably right in saying that "if" he can develop a backhand and get better from the back of the court... and grows a third leg etc etc then he could be... whatever. But if you or I could do those things then we could also be great tennis players, the difference with LR is that she already has teh shots, her shortcomings are fitness/speed, shot selection and psychology - those are more easily added than a backhand or a back-court game!

    She has the shots, she has weapons (which is essential for winning at the top level) and she has identified the areas for improvement and is actively working hard at improving them. And doing it well, if the last week or so is a guide.

    Let's enjoy the journey.

  • Comment number 16.

    #4 - cheer up, and take your trolling elsewhere!

  • Comment number 17.

    Waiting for someone to say that she was born in Australia.

    Hard hats on everyone!

  • Comment number 18.

    I meant #14, not #4. Sorry!

  • Comment number 19.

    It was no coincidence that Robson's best performance was when the spotlight was away from her in Palermo. To progress though my hope is LR is given time to develop her game, she still needs a proper 2nd serve and her movement is still amongst the poorest in the top 200.
    With average movement for a top 100 player and a decent 2nd serve comparable with other players of similar height added to her great groundstrokes should see her in the top 16.

  • Comment number 20.

    She's for sure the most talented of the next generation. When she's on she has that easy power (similar to Petra Kvitova) and the improvements in her court coverage are clear. At the moment she still has a lot of days where her timing is off and she's spraying shots.

    It's worth noting that the youngest quarterfinalist in the US Open is Vika Azarenka at 23 years old. The game is too physical now for teenagers to streak straight to the top. Kvitova was pretty much unknown until she made the wimbledon semifinal aged 20. So Laura still has time on her side.

    Krajan is a controversial figure. I hope it works out.

  • Comment number 21.

    Laura can certainly perform on the big courts at the big tournaments. What she seems unable to do is perform at the smaller WTA tournament - when there's no attention, she doesn't seem to have the right attitude to do it.

    I'll be interested to see how she does the rest of the year and next. But let's not build her up too much - I heard Sky talking about how tough her route to the final is!

    And I'd say that Chris Evert saying how good she is - professional courtesy. Roger Federer always said, back in the day,Hewitt was his main rival for Australian Open, Roddick his main rival for US Open, now recently Murray at Wimbledon and how Henman was always a huge threat there. See a trend here??

  • Comment number 22.

    We were in the stadium watching the Li Na match, and Laura looked to be a good ball striker, and also mentally tough ... we figured she would fall away after losing the second set, but instead she played better!
    So very positive from that point of view. What was very notable though was her lack of mobility on the court ... in fact it became somewhat of a running joke for us during the weekend (i.e. slow as Laura) ... hopefully that can be significantly improved, otherwise it's going to be tough for her to get into the top 10.
    Her interviews were great at the US open too btw ... she seems a lovely girl, so I hope she keeps improving.

  • Comment number 23.

    Wow @13nibs, did you lose a tv contract to an ex-pro or something?

    Robson seems to have grit and determination, which can't be taught, great power, technique and accuracy... but obviously not an 'athletic' player which could hold her back.

    Good news is that you can still have weaknesses and win slams in the women's game right now.

    Wimbeldon will be her best shot as well, so there's a bonus for the home fans!

 

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