BRITAIN’S Laura Robson insists she has still not found top gear at the Australian Open, despite claiming another grand slam winner’s scalp in a sapping late-night epic against 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
Robson confirmed her burgeoning reputation as one of the tour’s gutsiest competitors by seeing off the Czech eighth seed 2-6, 6-3, 11-9 in a three-hour slugfest that finished long after midnight in Melbourne yesterday.
The 18-year-old, who upset Major champions Kim Clijsters and Li Na at last year’s US Open, has the incentive of a likely quarter-final against favourite Serena Williams if she can beat another American, Sloane Stephens, tomorrow.
Robson was more perspiration than inspiration against Kvitova and admits she is yet to mine the buccaneering streak that propelled her in New York, but could not hide her delight at overcoming the odds yet again.
“I have to say I feel I was playing better in New York,” she said. “I thought today was pretty ugly, but, in terms of how tough it was to close it out in the end, I think it’s right up there with one of my best wins.”
The world No53’s triumph ensured two British women qualified for the third round of a grand slam for the first time since 1991. Heather Watson was due to face fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska early this morning.
Robson and Stephens, 19, have as old a rivalry as is possible for two teenagers and the Florida native can claim an edge, having beaten the Briton in Hobart last week and holding a world ranking of 25.
“We first played each other when I was 10 or 11,” Robson added. “She beat me last week in Hobart, and it was a pretty close match, but I definitely feel like I could play a lot better than I did last week.”
Beating Stephens would set up a last 16 meeting against evergreen Kimiko Date-Krumm, 42, or unseeded Bojana Jovanovski on Monday, Robson’s 19th birthday, with 15-time grand slam winner Serena likely to follow.
Those contests might never transpire if Robson repeats the errors that saw her lose the first set and trail 3-0 in the third against Kvitova, as well as failing to convert when serving for the match at 6-5.
But the Melbourne-born Olympic silver medallist drew on the support of a home-from-home crowd and refused to lose, pushing Kvitova, four years her senior, to the brink of tears before delivering the knockout blow at 12:30am local time.