Annabel Croft spoke to The Tennis Space about why she loves New York, her picks for the US Open, and why she thinks Laura Robson is the real deal…
Describe your role here in New York?
Here I’m a pundit for Sky Sports which is a nice role reversal because normally I’m the one asking the questions, it’s a nice chance for me to give my opinions on the players and the tactics and what’s going on as opposed to always asking the questions. I’ve worked with this team for many years now, love the team, love Marcus, love Greg, we have a good rapport, so it’s fun.
How do you feel about the US Open in general?
It was always one of my favourite tournaments to play, I loved it, loved the courts, loved the atmosphere. But I definitely get really excited about coming out here to cover it from a media side of things, I get a real buzz out of it, there’s something really glamorous about it, something to do with the night matches, playing under the lights. And we have amazing memories of some of the matches which have taken place here so there’s something quite special about being involved with it.
What have been your favourite matches so far?
I think Laura’s matches have actually been the stand out matches in the women. Her match with Kim Clijsters was definitely one of the best matches of the first week, and she’s followed that up with another equally good performance against Li Na.
The men’s, the top seeds have all been very straightforward, I enjoyed the Raonic match, I was pleased to see him get through because I do want to see him play Murray in the fourth round, that will be a very exciting clash.
What has impressed you about Laura Robson?
There’s this real inner grit and strength of character, which has shone through, I remember that from when she won junior Wimbledon. When you follow her matches on the scoreboard, she’ll just cling on and cling on, and that’s what she’s been doing here. All of a sudden she’s created an aura, and there’s a few shockwaves going through the dressing room right now, I’m sure they’re all panicking a little bit, because it’s a breakthrough, it’s very exciting and that’s what women’s tennis needs right now is another star. And how amazing that she’s from Britain.
I think the way she plays is exciting, because of this firepower from the back of the court, this easy weaponry, so much easy pace, incredible timing. I have always liked her service motion, I know it has its frailties, but here she has been getting the rhythm going, she has a really effortless style, and she has very good hands at the net. There are certain elements of her matches that remind me of Andy. Andy will hit the lines when he needs to, chase down balls and make the winner. There’s a lot of that going on with Laura at the moment, it feels like she’s on this real upward curve.
Do you think she believes in herself more?
Absolutely. It’s not as if she’s played them [Clijsters and Li] and they’ve played horror matches. She’s actually beaten them, and I think that’s the big difference. Laura beat Kerber last year at Wimbledon and Kerber went on to become 6 in the world, so how could you not think that Laura has that potential to go right on and get into the top 10.
How do you feel Andy Murray is?
He’s been coming in here everyday when he’s been practising, checking the scores, having a chat. When I watch him practice, you’ve never heard a sweeter sound out of the strings of a racket, he is so fit, so confident, so relaxed, I don’t think he could be in better shape to be playing this US Open right now.
Picks for the title?
I picked Murray before I watched him in Cincinnati, then I had a bit of a question mark after he had that horror match with Chardy, which I think was probably understandable, having come off all the excitement of the Olympics and everything. I’m torn, I think Djokovic might surprise people as well and respond to the disappointments he’s had during the year. It wasn’t that long ago that we were watching him trying to win his fourth Slam in a row at the French Open, and then suddenly it swung very quickly, it’s a bit like politics isn’t it, but you can never underestimate him, you have the sense he’s playing some really good tennis. If we get a Murray v Djokovic final that would be war, it would be an amazing match.
And in the women?
My pick is definitely Serena in the women’s, I don’t think she was allowed to play particularly well in her last match against Martinez Sanchez, she sort of junked her around, but she’s definitely outright favourite.