Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the next star in women's tennis. Her name is Laura Robson. She's from Great Britain and is only 18 years old. At the 2012 U.S. Open, the teenager proved that she can compete with just about anyone. While her country helped popularize the game of tennis, Britain hasn't exactly been a hotbed of talent for the sport in recent years. Robson hopes to change that.
Pressure doesn't seem to have a place in Robson's vocabulary, or at least she appeared unfazed by it at Flushing Meadows. In the second round, Robson found herself in the midst of a thriller against 23rd ranked Kim Clijsters, who was playing in her final career tournament. Robson was probably aware that Clijsters owns three U.S. Open titles and hadn't lost a single match at the event since 2003, when Robson was nine years old. In fact, only five women had ever beaten Clijsters at the Open. That number has been bumped up to six. Robson kept her cool throughout the tightly contested match, pushing the Belgian into retirement sooner than expected with a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) victory.
Perhaps it was foreshadowing of a bright future for British tennis when Robson teamed with Andy Murray to win Olympic silver in mixed doubles at the London Games. Certainly they would have preferred gold, but Murray won the men's singles anyway and Robson's career is just beginning. If there was any doubt after her defeat of Clijsters, Robson's third round match at the U.S. Open made it clear that she has what it takes to stick around for a while on the pro tennis scene. Not only that, she could soon surge up the rankings.
Li Na of China, the 2011 French Open champion, was seeded ninth at this year's U.S. Open. Robson had never before survived a showdown with a top-ten competitor. This was also her first trip to the third round of a major tourney. "I have had lots of tough matches against some very experienced opponents, so the way I see it, it was time to start winning a few of them." Well said. Robson needed three sets, but took her own advice as she ousted Li and advanced to round four.
Robson came up short of a quarterfinal appearance, meeting her match in the fourth round against defending tournament champion Samantha Stosur. She didn't make it easy on the Australian, saving eight match points before finally suffering a 6-4, 6-4 defeat. It marked the end of the road at the 2012 Open for Robson, but the tourney was a giant leap forward in the career of the former Wimbledon junior champion. Laura Robson hasn't reached elite status yet, but don't be surprised to see her collect a Grand Slam title in the near future.
Kevin Mitchell, "US Open 2012, Laura Robson showed courage under major pressure", The Guardian
Associated Press, "Laura Robson beats Li Na at U.S. Open", Sports Illustrated