Laura Robson, Britain's promising schoolgirl talent, has had her eyes all week on an early 16th birthday present that winning the Hopman Cup would have given her. The talented youngster, a former Wimbledon junior champion, must have thought that she was going to help Britain win the team competition and win a glittering diamond-encrusted tennis ball given to the winning players, after she pulled off her first singles win of the tournament by beating the world No 26 Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-1, 7-6 in the first rubber of yesterday's final against Spain.
Backing her up was the in-form Andy Murray, who had won all of his matches on the way to his country's first appearance in the final of the 20-year-old team event. However, Murray, following a different route to this month's Australian Open than he has in previous campaigns, was found lacking and came unstuck 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 at the hands of Tommy Robredo. That left the destination of the trophy to be determined by the mixed doubles and the Spanish pairing prevailed in two tight sets 7-6, 7-5 to leave Murray in apologetic mood.
"I guess I let Laura down today so I feel bad about that," said Murray, who was otherwise pleased with his build-up for the first grand slam of the new season which begins in Melbourne on January 18. "She is perhaps a little more disappointed than me because of the diamonds, but I told her she can buy them with the prize money." The runners-up cheque for Aus$75,000 (Dh254,600) was Robson's biggest pay day of a fledgling career.
Equally important to her was a wild card into qualifying for the Australian Open and Murray believes that she can defy a world ranking of 403 to earn a place in the 128-woman line-up. "She did great today beating a girl who is ranked 26 in the world," said Murray. "At her age that is amazing." The Scot added: "She has the potential. I know what it's like at that age and she is only going to get better." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org