When Britain’s Laura Robson won the junior girls’ title at Wimbledon in 2008 at the age of 14, the promise of what might be to come sent hope rippling through a success-starved nation. Four years on, the left-hander is beginning to make strides in the women’s game. At No 120, there is no one younger above her and she has her eyes set on bigger goals.
In an exclusive interview with The Tennis Space, Robson talks the Olympics, dealing with criticism and excess baggage.
You’ve had your fair share of injuries already. How frustrating has that been?
It’s tough but it’s something that comes with playing sport and also something that comes with the fact that I am still growing. Hopefully I’m done growing now. When I had the MRI for my (recent) shin (injury) it said that my growth plates were still open (laughing). I don’t actually to want to get any taller than I am. I am about 5ft 11, just over. I think any taller and I would just look a bit awkward because my feet are quite small. My Mum always says I look out of proportion because my feet are really small compared to the rest of my body.
How do you handle the expectations?
It’s always been a case of putting what I do in practice through to matches. In practice I feel really comfortable but it was always just putting that onto a match court, which I think I have done better over the past few months, especially after Wimbledon. When I had my first-round win against (Angelique) Kerber, I felt like something almost clicked in a way. I just felt a lot more confident on court and I felt more comfortable on court. Wimbledon was important because there were a lot of people watching that day but I just tried not to let it get to me. I could have easily lost that match but I just pulled through it.
How do you deal with criticism?
I don’t really notice it, really. I just try playing as well as I can at every tournament. If I don’t win, yeah, it’s a little bit my fault but I try not to put too much pressure on myself. If I thought about how many matches I’ve lost over the years I’d be really, really depressed, really (laughs). But I think now, I feel confident with how I’m playing.
What’s clicked, then?
I think I’m more consistent, which is something I’ve worked on. I think I’m fitter than I was a few months ago, even though I was injured. I’ve got a lot of things I can still improve on but I think everything’s improved a little bit and that’s something that can keep going.
Which female players do you like to watch?
I like watching Li Na. I love her game. I like watching – I quite like watching (Marion) Bartoli. I think she’s a really interesting player to watch in terms of how early she takes the ball. And for me, she’s someone I can look up to because she takes it on the rise every time. That’s definitely something I can improve on. My Mum and I enjoy watching (Wimbledon champion) Petra Kvitova.
Your style of play is similar to that of (Wimbledon champion) Petra Kvitova. Is that a fair comparison?
I think it’s a bit early to say that. We’re both left-handers. I think as of now, that’s probably the only similarity because she’s a lot better in everything than I am. But she’s definitely someone I can look up to. There are a lot of things in her game that I think I can improve on, that I can aspire to be like. I think her returns are incredible. That’s something I can work on, not trying to copy her but trying to do the same thing.
I am guessing the Olympics are a huge thing for you, especially in London?
It’s the main goal I have for the whole year. To be able to do that would be special and to play in my home Olympics would be incredible, especially because it’s going to be down the road from where I live. I’m not going to put too much focus on it in case it doesn’t happen but I’ve got a few more months to get there and hopefully I’ll do it.”
Do you have a number in mind this year, in terms of ranking?
I don’t want to really put any pressure on myself at the moment but the Olympics is in August and I think top 70 (to qualify) by then is a sort of a realistic goal to have. After that I’ll reassess it and see what I can do by the end of the year.
Do you feel like when you start rising up the rankings, it will be quick?
At the start of last year I was probably 250, and just before Wimbledon I was outside the top 250 so to be where I am now is a big improvement. Iif you do well in matches the ranking points do eventually come but I don’t think I’m going to somehow sky-rocket in the next few months. I think it’s going to be quite a progressive thing.
You’ve been working a lot on your fitness?
After Perth last year when I had the adductor injury I couldn’t do anything for a fair few months. Every time I did a hard fitness session or any sort of movement it seemed to flare up again. So now that’s finally over I’m able to do as much fitness as I want to and as much as I need to. It’s something that can still improve a lot.
You can play as many events as you like this year, so you’ll be racking up the air miles. Do you enjoy travelling?
It’s something you get used to, really. I read a lot of books so I always come well prepared on flights with my Kindle. I do a bit of preparation for long-haul flights so I don’t watch any movies or anything like that for a month before I go so I have some stuff to watch on the plane. My iPod is a big part of my life. I don’t mind travelling, but excess baggage is the biggest killer. It’s expensive – that’s why I need to keep winning.
And how do you keep from being bored on flights and in airports?
(In Australia) I was reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It’s about the first woman known to have reproductive cells so that’s eventually how they found the cure for various diseases. But I am not picky at all. I like The Hunger Games and I like Harry Potter and I also like slightly more intellectual books. I just like reading. As for TV, you’re never going to find a better show than the Vampire Diaries. I’m just going to throw it out there. It’s my favourite TV show ever.