There wasn't much to suggest that Laura Robson would get this far. The young Englishwoman, just 18, didn't have much of a record coming into the Open, though she was ranked 89th in the world, high enough to get a direct entry.
Now she's going directly to the fourth round of this Grand Slam tournament. She defeated No. 9 seed Li Na on Friday, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2, her first victory ever over a top-10 player. In the second round, she put an end to the career of three-time Open champion Kim Clijsters.
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Robson turned 18 in January and was freed from the WTA's age restrictions on playing a regular schedule. There were a whole bunch of qualifying and first-round losses, then came the London Olympics. In her second match, she gave Maria Sharapova, the eventual silver medalist, a good tussle while losing in two sets. She won a silver medal herself, partnering with Andy Murray in the mixed doubles. The Sharapova match gave her hope.
"I definitely felt like I should have won the first set," Robson said. "It was extremely close, and then I just made a few silly mistakes and just didn't move my feet as much as I should have. So what I have been working on since then is making sure that I do move my feet and just continuously make one extra ball and make it a little bit harder for them.''
Against Clijsters and then Li, Robson earned her victories. She served well and her ground strokes were deep and powerful. And though she has an infected toe, she seems to have overcome a series of niggling injuries. "It just makes such a difference mentally," she said. "I just feel like I'm healthy and I'm feeling fit."
She took on Croatian coach Zeljko Krajan early this month. Krajan coached Dinara Safina to the No. 1 ranking in 2009 before injuries derailed her career. Krajan is trying to instill professional discipline in Robson, a player he believes has massive upside.
"In the last few weeks, I have gained a bit of confidence and the work that I have done with him has been very specific in terms of tactical stuff," Robson said. "I think it's noticeable that instead of just trying to hit a winner off a tough shot like I have done in the past, I'm just trying to make a percentage shot back.''