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Australian Open 2013: Laura Robson into second round

Robson beats American Oudin to deliver first win and join Watson in round two

By
Mike Dickson

PUBLISHED:

05:33 GMT, 15 January 2013

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UPDATED:

06:16 GMT, 15 January 2013

Laura Robson spent the first year of her life in this charming city and, just short of her 19th birthday, she has now won a grand slam match there.

The British No 2 convincingly overcame America’s Melanie Oudin 6-2 6-3 after 75 minutes of highly efficient combat, played out in warm conditions to reach the second round of the Australian Open, where she will join Heather Watson.

Robson now has the tough task of facing former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, a left hander to whom she is not entirely dissimilar in their natural ball-striking abilities. The Czech will not hugely relish the task, given what her younger opponent did to some illustrious names in the US Open.

Double trouble: Laura Robson joined Heather Watson in the second round of the Australian Open

Double trouble: Laura Robson joined Heather Watson in the second round of the Australian Open

Double trouble: Laura Robson joined Heather Watson in the second round of the Australian Open

There was also evidence in this first round match that the hard work Robson has put in during a long training stint in Florida before Christmas with Croatian coach Zeljko Krajan has already paid a dividend.

She looked in good shape, is gradually moving better and there seems to be some extra ‘pop’ on her groundstrokes and, especially, her serve. That yielded eleven aces on a medium paced hard court and readily got her out of trouble on the few occasions she was threatened.

Oudin is a cautionary tale, a rising star at 17 who reached the US Open quarter finals and Wimbledon fourth round but has subsequently struggled to handle the pressures thrust upon her in a country anxiously looking for successors to the Williams sisters.

Blue skies: Robson impressed the healthy crowd in attendance in Melbourne

Blue skies: Robson impressed the healthy crowd in attendance in Melbourne

Robson’s rise has been more gradual due mainly to growth-related injuries, and that may not be a bad thing. Having lost here in the first round a year ago she should now move back into the top 50 having slipped this week to 53, and she looks worth that position.

Supported by a decent British contingent in the crowd Robson, who arrived in the UK aged six via a long stint in Singapore, was even treated to a version of the national anthem as she pulled ahead in the first set.

Oudin, ranked 30 places below her, was behind from the start as the Wimbledon-based southpaw repeatedly tucked into her serve and forced her onto the backfoot. When Robson came to serve she was hardly threatened, regularly able to crunch away a winner from a short return as the American struggled to cope with the swing, spin and speed of her left-handed delivery.

Eyes on the prize: Robson will now take on former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the second round

Eyes on the prize: Robson will now take on former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the second round

The British No 2 was up around the 110 mph mark on plenty of occasions and the diminutive Oudin was left flailing around in despair, not helped by her misfiring forehand in the case of rallies getting started. Such was the accuracy of Robson’s drives into the corners that most of the time she was not in a comfortable postion to play the shot.

Robson got ahead for 3-2 in the second but then played her worst service game to get broken for the only time. She broke again immediately afterwards and this time had no problem consolidating, clinching a second match point when Oudin sent another forehand wide and long.

After losing to her near contemporary Sloane Stephens in the first round of the Hobart WTA event last week this was just what was needed, and she now has very little to lose against Kvitova in what could be steaming hot conditions.

Carly Booth making major championship debut in Liverpool

Following in the footsteps of… the Beatles Booth making championship debut in Liverpool

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UPDATED:

21:46 GMT, 12 September 2012

Where better for Carly Booth to make her major championship debut than the environs of Liverpool, her mother’s hometown and where her father once worked as a bodyguard at the Cavern Club and a minder for the Beatles.

It must be one of Booth’s professional ambitions to come up with a tale or two more colourful than her father Wally’s, who won a wrestling silver medal for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games when he wasn’t looking after John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Ready Carly Booth will make her major championship debut in Liverpool, her mother's hometown

Ready Carly Booth will make her major championship debut in Liverpool, her mother's hometown

Seemingly petrified when speaking to the press formally on the eve of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Liverpool, the slender 20-year-old Scot proved charming company afterwards and more than able to hold her own when it came to a yarn.

Booth played golf for a while at Dunblane, where she became the youngest club champion in Britain at the age of 11, and naturally we wanted to know if she’d ever bumped into the local hero who is not only the talk of that town right now but these entire isles.

No, she’s never met Andy Murray – he’d probably moved to Spain by then, come to think of it – but she remembers a titanic battle against his elder brother Jamie in the semi-final of the Dunblane Junior Golf Championship.

Turns out Jamie holed a 30 footer to win on the 17th, which must have spared his blushes since it was a scratch match and he was 17 at the time, playing off a five handicap, while Carly was just 10.

‘That’s about all I do remember, which I guess is not too surprising given my age at the time,’ said Booth.

Destined for greatness: Booth, pictured in 2005, is hoping to realise her great potential at the Women's British Open at the Royal Liverpool

Destined for greatness: Booth, pictured in 2005, is hoping to realise her great potential at the Women's British Open at the Royal Liverpool

‘About the only thing I was interested in back then was whether my hair looked right and my earrings matched.’

A decade on, and sporting a strikingly large pair of matching earrings, she has lots to peak her interest, including spearheading the home challenge this week.

If truth be told, given her prowess at a formative age, it is surprising it has taken her until now to make her competitive bow in a major.

‘Don’t ask about my efforts to qualify in the past,’ she said, concerning results that were illustrative of the growing pains she experienced after turning pro.

Two victories already this year, including one on home soil at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, suggest they are all behind her now.

'It was very difficult for a couple of years,’ she confessed.

‘The first year I was still at school
and found it very hard to combine that with playing on tour. Then the
second year I started out with six missed cuts in a row and my
confidence was very low. I stopped enjoying it , which was a shame as it
was the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.

'So
this year I came out resolving to just getting back to enjoying it and
that has certainly been the case with winning a couple of tournaments.’

Indeed,
Booth has made her contribution to the welcome revival of the Scottish
game, and has witnessed at close quarters the re-emergence of European
Masters champion Richie Ramsay and Paul Lawrie’s heartwarming return to
the European elite.

'My
boyfriend (Argentine Tano Goya) plays on the men’s tour and so when I’m
not playing I spend a lot of time watching the men’s game,’ she said.

‘It has been great to see the likes of Richie and Paul winning and I want to keep playing my part.’

We can’t let her go without asking for her dad’s favourite Beatles story, can we

In the footsteps: Booth's father, Wally, was a bodyguard at the Cavern club in Liverpool

In the footsteps: Booth's father, Wally, was a bodyguard at the Cavern club in Liverpool

She loves the one about a young Cilla Black working as a coat room girl at the Cavern. Then there was the time Wally was asked if he would like to go to the States with the Beatles.

He turned them down because he was in training for the Olympics and was glad he did. ‘The man who went in his place ended up dying,’ said Carly.

Booth is not the only one who could follow on from Murray and make this two Grand Slam titles in a week for Scotland.

Catriona Matthew won this title an hour’s drive from here three years ago and won’t mind at all if the weather continues to be as frightful as it has in the days leading up to the start.

‘It’s going to be very tricky if the wind blows as it has been doing but I’ve been playing well coming into the event and I’m looking forward to it,’ said the 42 year old, who won the Irish Open last month.

First out this morning will be New Zealand’s 15 year old sensation Lydia Ko, the talk of the women’s game after winning the Canadian Open recently.