2016 Aegon International

Robson takes advantage in qualifiers

British #7 takes step closer to Eastbourne main draw

© David Purday/phcimages.com

Laura Robson took full advantage of the late withdrawal of American Christina McHale to claim success on the WTA Tour.

The British #7, who returned to the circuit after a 17-month lay-off with a poor comeback at last year’s Aegon International, returned to winning ways at Devonshire Park.

The 22-year-old Australian-born Londoner pulled off a closely-fought Qualifying triumph, much to the joy of the enthusiastic and patriotic fans at the jam-packed No.1 Court, to defeat China’s Yifan Xu in straight sets 7-5 7-6(4).

Granted a wildcard entry to the Aegon International qualifiers, Robson was expected by some to make an early exit when drawn against McHale.

When the American, who has been seeded #9 for the Qualifying draw, decided to skip Devonshire Park, then finally Robson received some good fortune.

Robson’s game has been rusty despite plenty of to tournament reversals, although she has occasionally pulled off a rare success but has only garnered one victory over a top 100 player over the past 12 months.

She showed promise against Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, a former world #1, at the Madrid Masters but then bowed out at the first hurdle in the French Open to hard-hitting German ace Andrea Petkovic

Lacklustre displays on grass prior to Eastbourne left Robson low on confidence, but she has  battled back with a Wimbledon wildcard to show as reward.

She didn’t quite sparkle at Eastbourne but she did just enough to snatch the opening set, which was greeted by the fans with rapturous applause..

Robson, who captured Junior Wimbledon as a 14-year-old, struggled with her serve and survived going a double break down 3-0 in the second set to edge behind 2-1.

Despite serving up an incredible 10 double faults and lacking any penetration with her second serve, a gutsy fightback saw Robson force a tiebreak.

The encouragement from the spectators helped Robson raise her game when it mattered and she clinched victory with a 7-4 triumph in the tiebreak.

Laura Robson (GBR) in action during day 1 of the Aegon International at Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club on June 18th 2016 in Eastbourne, England. (Photo by David Purday/phcimages.com)

Robson used the power of the home crowd to push herself to victory (©David Purday/phcimages.com)

Jubilant Robson beamed with delight, and although her performance was not top notch, what a difference a year makes as she registered a confidence-boosting success.

Her reward is a showdown against American #4 seed Madison Brengle, with the winner of the contest moving into the star-studded main draw.

For Robson, who has played second fiddle since returning from wrist injuries that halted her career in late 2013, this particular triumph could be the one that propels her back up the world rankings from her current position of #308.

Last year’s tournament at Eastbourne saw ex-British #1 Robson compared to the other Australian-born Brit kick-starting her climb into the world’s top 20, Johanna Konta.

Konta, who resides in Eastbourne, has experienced a spectacular 12 months since she swept aside many of the leading ladies at Devonshire Park and then regularly on Tour – her high point being a surge to the Australian Open semi-finals.

Eastbourne could also be a massive turning point for Robson, but whether her resurgent run begins at the Aegon International or Wimbledon this is a make-or-break season for her and her never-say-die attitude.

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