Laura Robson is used to there being a lot expected of her. It’s been the case since she won junior Wimbledon at the age of 14, and the British public began taking bets on when she’d be lifting the senior trophy too.
But this time, playing the main draw at the Australian Open for the second time in her career, the 18-year-old has senior Grand Slam pedigree to back up that expectation.
Robson proved the pomp and circumstance that has trailed her for the past four years was not unfounded with a run to the fourth round at the US Open, unseating Kim Clijsters and Li Na along the way, and doing her best to make life difficult for then defending champion Sam Stosur.
A first-round encounter against Melanie Oudin, the former teen prodigy, was therefore expected not to overly trouble the British teen on Tuesday, and so it transpired, Robson defeating the American 6-2 6-3 in an hour and 15 minutes.
The pair are no strangers, having met in the first round of qualifying here at Melbourne Park last year, and as far back as the second round of junior Wimbledon in 2008. But the gulf in their respective levels has widened to a chasm, as Robson stormed to a 4-0 lead in the opening set. Converting her first set point with an ace after 35 minutes, the British No.2 had produced 20 winners to Oudin’s five, seven of them her increasingly dangerous lefty swinging ace.
Oudin, ranked 84 to Robson’s 53, rallied a little in the second set, redeeming an early break as a few errors crept into the Briton’s game. But it was short-lived, Robson breaking again immediately, and forcing Oudin to serve to stay in the match at 3-5.
Oudin saved the first of two match points with a deep mid-court ball onto the Robson forehand that flew well wide of the tramlines, but couldn’t get onto Robson’s cross court backhand on the following point.
Producing the slightest of fistpumps, Robson jogged to the net, 11 aces and 28 winners to her name, and a second round against Petra Kvitova to look forward to. It will be a lefty heaven.