x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Wimbledon: Laura Robson keeps rolling on

Win over Colombian ensures UK presence in women's draw while Andy Murray and David Ferrer progress in the men's draw.

Laura Robson celebrates winning against Mariana Duque-Marino.
Laura Robson celebrates winning against Mariana Duque-Marino.

LONDON // Home favourite Laura Robson was the toast of Wimbledon again on Friday as the 19-year-old reached the third round for the first time, five years after being dubbed the "next big thing" in British women's tennis.

By this stage of the tournament the only British female presence is usually the ball girls but Robson, who won the junior Wimbledon title as a 14-year-old, was given the unexpected honour of playing on Centre Court after her match was postponed by rain on Thursday.

She duly rose to the occasion and surfed a wave of home support to beat Colombian qualifier Mariana Duque-Marino 6-4 6-1.

"It's a big win for me," said Robson. "Any match on Centre Court is a big one and it was a great atmosphere out there and having the roof closed just made it louder."

Robson had never gone beyond the second round at Wimbledon, though she did reach the fourth at last year's US Open - the first British woman to last that long in a grand slam event for 14 years.

Being the best British woman player at Wimbledon is admittedly a relatively limited sub-group but, having beaten 10th seed Maria Kirilenko on Tuesday, Robson started as a clear favourite in front of her home fans.

With both women occasionally employing a floaty sliced backhand, something of a rarity at the top level these days, the rallies had some real variety even if there were too many basic errors to worry any of the big names in the draw.

Both players struggled to find any consistency early on but Robson eventually settled to take a first set that featured five breaks of serve.

Once Robson had pocketed that she grew in confidence and started delivering some real power with her groundstrokes to race through the second set virtually untroubled and now has a winnable third-round meeting with New Zealander Marina Erakovic.

"I didn't think I played my best, my timing was a bit off, but I just had to accept that and try to control it," she said.

"I was feeling nervous but then thought she was probably more nervous than I was.

"I'm really excited. I'm going to play doubles this afternoon, if it stops raining, and get ready for tomorrow."

Andy Murray reached the second week of Wimbledon in style with a straight-sets victory over 32nd seed Tommy Robredo under the Centre Court roof.

The world No 2 has not yet looked close to dropping a set in three matches, and for a set and a half he was quite brilliant.

Murray could not quite maintain that high level for the remainder of the match but it was good enough and he wrapped up a 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 success to set up a fourth-round meeting against either Mikhail Youzhny or Viktor Troicki on Monday.

Grigor Dimitrov joined girlfriend Maria Sharapova in slipping out of Wimbledon and was more keen to talk about the state of the courts than his high-profile love life.

The Bulgarian lost a five-set match to Grega Zemlja in an eventful finish to a contest which started on Thursday but was halted by weather at 9-8 in the final set.

Dimitrov took a fall in the opening game to offer up a match point to his opponent. He saved that but was broken the next time he had the serve and lost 11-9.

Dimitrov was clearly unhappy about the playing conditions; he took to his chair for 10 minutes after the slip, which came amid relatively heavy rainfall.

His exit was similar to Sharapova’s on Wednesday – the Russian, too, struggled with her footing – but he did not want to talk about her when asked afterwards.

He did confirm that they are a couple, something he had not publicly done.

Asked if Sharapova’s court-side presence causes extra pressure, he said: “I feel even more pumped and happy that she’s there for me.”

But when pressed to comment about the row between Sharapova and Serena Williams that broke last weekend, which has involved claims that the American was referring to Dimitrov, below, when she spoke of a player’s boyfriend with a “black heart”, he chose instead to talk about his tumbles.

“You tell me what kind of heart I have,” he said jokingly. “I am here to talk about slippery courts, how many injuries we had, pull-outs …”

Fourth seed David Ferrer came through a tough clash with fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.

Just weeks after defeat to another compatriot, Rafael Nadal, in the French Open final, the 31-year-old clay-court expert came out on top.

The delayed second-round tussle was by no means easy for Ferrer. Looking rusty, he was made to work by world No 60 Bautista Agut and took just under three hours to win through 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 on Court One.

Tommy Haas, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Jeremy Chardy all progressed from the second round, too.

In the third round, Roger Federer's conqueror Sergiy Stakhovsky went out 6-2, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 to Jurgen Melzer, while Jerzy Janowicz also progressed. The Pole overcame 15th seed Nicolas Almagro on Centre Court, winning in straight sets - 7-6, 6-3, 6-4.