Five thoughts after Laura Robson defeated Li Na, the world No 8 and a former French Open champion, to reach the fourth round of the US Open:
Midway through the second set of this three-set victory, Wayne Rooney tweeted that ‘Laura Robinson’ was playing brilliantly. While Rooney is not totally au fait with the spelling of British tennis players’ names, there was no quibbling with his analysis of how the teenager was competing against the world’s second highest earning sportswoman (on the money list, she trails only Maria Sharapova). How often have we seen a player follow up the greatest win of their lives with the greatest let-down? Call that Rosol Syndrome, named after the Czech man who out-hit Rafael Nadal at this summer’s Wimbledon Championships and then a round later had nothing left to give. Robson, though, had plenty more game, a round after ending Kim Clijsters’s career. Robson followed a high with an even greater high, so becoming the first British woman for 14 years, since Sam Smith at Wimbledon in 1998, to reach the fourth round of a grand slam. For the watching Greg Rusedski, and for many other observers, this was the match – not the win over Clijsters – that demonstrated that the 18-year-old is “the real deal”. Li, after her decent form on hard courts this summer, had been spoken of as a possible champion at the final grand slam of the season.
Sam Stosur, the defending champion and world No 7, has been performing a new ‘running woman’ dance celebration after her victories at Flushing Meadows. But, should Robson keep this form going, don’t be surprised if Stosur drags her feet back to the locker-room after their encounter. If you’ve already beaten Clijsters and Li, then why not Stosur too? “Laura will have nothing to lose against me,” said Stosur.
When the week began, the American tennis public didn’t know much Robson. That is changing, and quickly.
Sam Smith, now a television analyst, had promised to jump into the fountain at Flushing Meadows if Robson beat Clijsters, and that’s a promise that Robson’s mother Kathy is going to make sure that Smith keeps. During Robson’s match against Li on the Louis Armstrong Stadium, Smith was wondering on air what she could do if Robson were to keep on going through the draw. There was some talk of abseiling off the top of the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
How differently would this summer have played out if Andy Murray had chosen Heather Watson, not Robson, as his mixed-doubles partner at the Olympics. Would Robson now be playing with this confidence if she had not won a silver medal at the London Games?