Falling short proves to be crying shame for Laura Robson
Laura Robson struggled to fight back the tears yesterday afternoon as she squandered a big chance to make history at Wimbledon.
After three impressive victories last week, Robson had an opportunity to become the first British woman in 29 years to reach the quarter-finals of a grand slam, but she crumbled at key stages today, losing 7-6 (8/6) 7-5 to world number 46 Kaia Kanepi.
The 19-year-old was a break up in the first set and also led in the tie-break, but she could not see the match out. A series of unforced errors, mainly involving her forehand, and a lack of nerve towards the end of the first set were the main factors in her defeat.
British number one Robson's disappointment was clear as she trudged off Court One, failing to acknowledge her supporters as she had during the rest of the tournament.
"That was because I lost. I was just trying not to cry," Robson said afterwards.
"I'm really, really disappointed. I had my chances and I just didn't take them."
Robson has largely enjoyed a "crazy" nine-day period during which she truly established herself as the darling of British women's tennis. Victory over Maria Kirilenko in the first round made her the first home woman to beat a top-10 player at Wimbledon for 15 years and her progression to the last 16 means she will be the first British female to crack the top 30 since 1987 when the rankings are updated next week.
To top it all, she has received public messages of support from the biggest names in tennis, showbusiness and politics over the last few days.
Robson conceded that she put herself under immense pressure to make it through yesterday's match.
She added: "It's just been an overwhelming experience. It's been crazy, but in a good way. I think I was putting a lot of pressure on myself.
"At the end of the first set I was just trying to will myself to play unbelievable tennis when just making a serve would have been fine."
Nineteen-year-old Robson will pick up know-how, and can now build towards the US Open, where she also reached the fourth round last year. The run in London was wholly different to last summer's in New York, she explained.
"At the US Open last year I was just happy to be there. Today I went out and I really thought I had a chance of winning," Robson said. "I was feeling confident going into the match so it is more disappointing today."
Kanepi, who will play Serena Williams' conqueror Sabine Lisicki in the last eight, was expecting Court One to be an intimidating place because her opponent was playing on home soil. The support did not match expectations for the 28-year-old from Haapsalu, who noted it was far from raucous.
"I think the crowd wasn't that bad actually. When she won a point it was a bit louder than normal but they didn't clap when I double-faulted or anything. I think it was really good," Kanepi said.
Robson was happy with the support, although she feels the crowd could have been more vocal at times.
"I thought they were good," said Robson, who has spoken about how much she enjoyed the noisy crowds at the All England Club during London 2012.
"They were obviously applauding her shots, as well. I would have loved it to be even louder."
Meanwhile, Kirsten Flipkens, Belgium's next hope for a WTA champion after the retirement of Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, is doing her best to make her country proud at Wimbledon.
The No.20 seed, who suffered from blood clots in 2012 that forced her out of the game for two months and which left her with a ranking outside of the top 250, defeated Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta 7-6(2), 6-3 for her first quarter-final at a major.