US Open: British Teen Laura Robson Advances into Second Qualifying Round

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IAugust 24, 2011

Laura Robson in action in New York on wednesday. Photo: Ashley Marshall
Laura Robson in action in New York on wednesday. Photo: Ashley Marshall

Laura Robson booked her place in the second round of the U.S. Open qualifying tournament Wednesday with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Canadian Heidi El Tabakh in New York.

She will face American Taylor Townsend in the second round after needing just 62 minutes to complete the victory in front of a mostly full Court 13.

Townsend beat Arantxa Parra-Santonja 7-6(2), 6-3 on Court 7 earlier in the afternoon.

Robson attacked the backhand well on the serve and she looked efficient on both wings with the exception of the odd overhit forehand when she looked a little tentative toward the end of the match.

Sporting a powder blue skirt and matching shirt with a bright pink stripe down the front and back, Robson took an early break in the second game when El Tabakh dumped a backhand into the net, and she consolidated her advantage with some unreturnable serves to establish a 3-0 lead.

Three consecutive unforced errors, including a pair of double faults, made it 4-0, and Robson raced into a 5-0 lead with back-to-back aces down the tee.

El Tabekh held at the third time of asking to extend the set, but the Brit closed it out to love at the next opportunity to wrap up an economical first 25 minutes of work.

Robson dropped just two points on serve in the opening set, and she didn't lose a point on her first serve until the start of the second set.

The second set was much of the same: an early break and comfortable holds, although El Tabekh's form improved in line with a better serve. In truth, El Tabekh did not perform to her ability in the first set, and Robson only started to look tentative when the finish line was in sight.

Robson broke at 1-1 in the second to seize control of proceedings and she never really looked in trouble on serve against Egyptian-born El Tabakh on the eve of her 25th birthday. Although taken to deuce three times, I don't think she ever faced a break point.

Robson motioned to her mother Kathy to suggest swirling on-court winds in the latter stages of the match after spraying a forehand wide and even if the weather changes did play a part in an edgy final 15 minutes, she was soon closing out the contest.

A veteran of the women's tour since '02, El Tabakh had few answers for her younger opponent, and Robson broke again at 5-4 to seal the victory.

El Tabakh was 14-19 entering the match, and she has failed to make it past the quarterfinal stage in all but one tournament this year. In the three previous grand slams, she went out at the first qualifying hurdle. This was no different.

Ranked outside of the world's top 150, Robson is a virtually unknown commodity outside of the UK, where she is one of the best younger prospects the county has produced on the women's side in some time.

The 17-year-old has had an up-and-down season, interrupted at the start of the year with a hip injury suffered at the Hopman Cup in January.

After missing all of February, the hard-hitting left-hander returned to the ITF Circuit in March, only to miss another three weeks with a stomach muscle strain.

She rallied past Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon in June, and she gave a fantastic showing against world No. 5 Maria Sharapova in front of a deeply appreciative home crowd two days later.

She began her hard-court campaign with a run to the final in Woking before pulling out early in the second set, but arrived in New York on the back of a straight-sets loss to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the qualifiers in Cincy.

She wasn't perfect Wednesday, but her hot start was enough to carry her through a tricky first task.

Kathy Robson can often be heard telling her daughter to move her feet, keep low and move up to the ball. If she does that against Townsend, she may claim the scalp of a homegrown favourite.