LONDON (AP) — Still only 19, Laura Robson is busy accumulating a list of accomplishments that include the words “first British woman since.”
At last year’s U.S. Open, she became the first British woman since 1991 to reach the fourth round there. Thanks to a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 comeback victory Saturday over Marina Erakovic of New Zealand, a match that included a crucial overturned call, Robson is now the first British woman since 1998 to make it that far at Wimbledon.
And she’s also assured of becoming the first British woman since 1987 — more than a quarter-century ago — to climb into the top 30 in the WTA rankings.
Robson, a lefty with a fairly big serve who beat Kim Clijsters in the final match of the four-time major champion’s career, is nonplussed by it all.
“I didn’t even know about it until you tell me,” Robson said when asked about the significance of some of her milestones. “I just focus on, you know, playing my match, things like that. Things that actually matter.”
And she noted: “I don’t go into the match thinking, ‘If I win this, I’m going to be top-30.’”
Needless to say, the attention paid to her by the locals is increasing: Photos of Robson were all over the front pages of Saturday’s newspapers, and she was thrilled with the vocal support she heard on Court 2 against Erakovic.
“I don’t think they had much to support in the first set,” Robson joked, “but they were amazing. I thought they helped a lot.”
That sort of focus and backing only will increase in a place desperate for tennis success; the last British woman to win Wimbledon was Virginia Wade in 1977. That’s nothing, of course, compared to the wait since 1936 for a male champion at the All England Club, but it’s enough to get everyone around here rather excited about Robson.
“It’s good to do well, especially at Wimbledon,” said Robson, currently ranked 38th. “But I’m going to be playing for, like, another 10 years, so it’s all bonuses for now.”
Playing for a second day in a row, Robson did not start well.
Not at all.
“I was getting my butt kicked, basically,” Robson said. “I was really struggling to return her serve. She was playing really well. So I just thought: Just going to try as best as I can, work as hard as possible and just stick with it until she starts to get nervous — which is what happened.”
Indeed, the 71st-ranked Erakovic, who was trying to become the first woman from New Zealand to get to Wimbledon’s fourth round since 1959, was up a set and a break and served for the match at 5-4 in the second.
But she set up a break point with one of her eight double-faults, and Robson pulled even at 5-all.
“I think anyone would be tightening up serving for the match in that situation. And (I) knew that she hadn’t made the fourth round of a Slam. That was what I was told,” said Robson, who eliminated 10th-seeded Maria Kirilenko in her opening match. “So I kind of just tried to put the pressure on her serve, and she made a couple of double-faults, which helped me. But I knew that that was my chance to get in her head a little bit, and that’s what I did.”
After holding to go up 6-5, Robson got a set point when Erakovic double-faulted to make it 30-40. Then came a key moment. Robson barely got a return back that looped high and just caught the edge of a line, but was called out before Erakovic finished hitting what would have been a winner.
Robson successfully challenged the “out” ruling, the point was replayed, and Erakovic double-faulted yet again to cede the set.
From there, Robson took complete control, building a 4-0 lead in the third set.
After Wimbledon’s traditional day of rest on the middle Sunday, Robson moves on to Week 2 at Wimbledon.
On Monday, she will face 46th-ranked Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, a four-time major quarterfinalist who beat 126th-ranked wild-card entry Alison Riske of the United States 6-2, 6-3.
“It’s now my second time in the second week of a Slam, so that’s pretty cool. Except at the U.S. Open, I played on the Sunday, so it didn’t quite feel like a ‘second week,’” Robson said, “and my brother said it didn’t count.”
Well, as far as all of a certain country is concerned, this one most certainly will count. And if Robson wins again, she will be the first British woman since Jo Durie in 1984 to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon — or any Grand Slam tournament.
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich