LONDON (Reuters) - After numerous false dawns for British women’s tennis, teenager Laura Robson underlined her precocious talent by displaying maturity and a fighting spirit in adversity to reach the second week of Wimbledon on Saturday.
The 19-year-old appeared to be heading tamely out of her home grand slam at the third round stage when trailing New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic by a set and 5-3.
But the British number one, much to the delight of a subdued sun-drenched crowd, finally found her form as Erakovic faltered when serving for a place in the last 16.
Robson, who knocked out 10th seed Maria Kirilenko in the first round, reeled off eight games in a row to lead 4-0 in the decider before holding her nerve to win 1-6 7-5 6-3 after Erakovic briefly threatened a revival.
Hailed as future top 10 player by world number one Serena Williams, Robson could meet the American five-times champion and hot favorite in the quarter-finals if she can overcome Estonian world number 46 Kaia Kanepi in the fourth round.
The Briton is already guaranteed to break into the world’s top 30 having equaled her best grand slam showing after reaching the last 16 at last year’s U.S. Open, although Robson said that feat was furthest from her thoughts.
“I just focus on, you know, playing my match. Things like that, things that actually matter,” she told reporters.
“I mean, it’s a good thing (getting into the top 30). Hopefully, this means I’ll be seeded for the U.S. Open. But I don’t go into the match thinking, ‘If I win this, I’m going to be top 30’.”
Britain has not had a player ranked in the world’s top 30 since Jo Durie in 1987 while Sam Smith was the last British woman to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon in 1998.
Robson said that in terms of the career stretching before her she was in “bonus” territory at this stage.
“I’m going to be playing for like another 10 years, so it’s all bonuses for now.”
Robson was all at sea in the opening set as Erakovic’s pinging serve and precise ground strokes forced a flurry of errant shots from the Briton.
The teenager failed to lift her game in the second until Erakovic, who beat Robson on grass in their only previous encounter last year, faltered when serving for the match.
Robson, sensing her opponent tensing up, seized the initiative and grew in stature as the New Zealander’s once dominant serve deserted her.
“You just have to hang in and wait for them (opponents) to start making a few errors,” Robson said.
“I can definitely play better than I did today. But it’s tough to play your best tennis all the time. What I’ve been working on is just accepting that I’m not going to play great tennis in every match.
“I might have a couple of good games here and there, but the majority of the time I’m just going to have to work on being super-consistent and go from there.”
Reporting by Justin Palmer; editing by Ken Ferris