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What now for Laura Robson?

Laura Robson
Robson collected the girls' singles trophy on Saturday

By Caroline Cheese and Paul Birch
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

On Saturday, former junior Wimbledon champion Tracy Austin expressed her fear that Britain "tends to build people up too quickly".

By Sunday morning, 14-year-old Laura Robson was on the front pages of almost every single newspaper, celebrating her triumph in the girls' singles at Wimbledon.

The Mail on Sunday crowned her the "new Queen of Wimbledon". Venus Williams, despite joining a select group of legends by winning her fifth title, was almost an after-thought.

Robson's run had captured the British public's imagination to such an extent that the girls' final was moved to Court One, which has a capacity of more than 11,000, and shown live on BBC1.

WIMBLEDON GIRLS WINNERS
2008 Laura Robson (14)
2007 Urszula Radwanska (16)
2006 Caroline Wozniacki (15)
2005 Agnieszka Radwanska (16)
2004 Kateryna Bondarenko (17)
2003 Kirsten Flipkens (17)
* ages in brackets
As Austin said, it is a situation which would "never happen" in her home country where junior champions are two a penny.

Britain, though, has not tasted victory in any singles event at Wimbledon since Annabel Croft's win in the girls' event in 1984.

But as Croft's almost barren trophy cabinet proves, winning junior Wimbledon is no barometer for future success.

In recent history, only Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo have won both the girls' and women's titles at SW19. Austin won the US Open, while girls' finalists Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Kim Clijsters and Hana Mandlikova also went on to become Grand Slam champions.

"Ten years ago if you won a junior Grand Slam, you'd be among the best kids in the world, nowadays you're not," Pat Cash, junior champion in 1982, told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek.

"Most of the best girls have gone pro by the age of 16, and she will too. But to say she's beaten the best girls in the world, she hasn't, not by a long, long way."

Nonetheless, Robson's achievement is worth celebrating. At 14, she is the youngest winner of the event since Hingis, who was just 13.

Former British number one Sam Smith says the hype is fully justified.

If she doesn't make the top 20 by the time she is 20, somebody will have seriously screwed up

Former British number one
Sam Smith
"I've been trying to see Laura Robson for a while and finally got to see her in her third-round match here. Everything I had heard about her from top tennis agents was true," Smith told BBC Sport.

"They said she's not just the best 14-year-old Britain's ever produced, but she is one of the best 14-year-olds they have ever seen.

"The foundations of her game are there. She doesn't have any weaknesses at all. She has a game that, with a bit more strength, would stand up with the pros. It's not a junior game that will need to be changed."

Saturday's victory is expected to see Robson rocket into the top five of the junior rankings after starting the tournament at 36th.

Her ranking has extra significance because regulations stipulate that under-14s can only play 14 tournaments per year, unless they are ranked inside the top 20 in which case they can enter a further four.

That could mean Robson may now attempt to win back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US Open in August, although her management company Octagon say a decision has yet to be made.

Robson's immediate plans are to head to the Netherlands for two events on clay, before participating in a team tournament in the Czech Republic.

The LTA's head of women's tennis Carl Maes says "we might not hear from Laura for a couple of months now so she doesn't get sidetracked".

The Belgian, former coach of Clijsters, added: "We do need to manage the expectations and although we are desperate for a new star and this player is exceptional, there are no guarantees that is two years' time she will still be exceptional."

606: DEBATE
kuzfan
Smith, though, says if Robson does not hit the world top 20 by the time she is 20 "somebody will have seriously screwed up".

"I would say that this time next year she won't be playing juniors," said Smith.

"I think she will play lots of junior tournaments until April next year and then start playing satellite tournaments. She has obviously got a real aptitude for playing on grass so I'd love to see her playing qualifiers for Edgbaston or Eastbourne.

"The key thing is to not give out any wildcards to her for tour events yet as she isn't ready. They did that with American prodigy Donald Young and it really set him back. But her team won't do that as they know what they are doing.

"There is no way she can avoid the hype and I think that would be the wrong thing to do. I think she has got to embrace it and manage it. She's managed by the same team that looked after Andy Murray in his teenage years and they really know what they are doing."




see also
Robson must be protected - Wade
06 Jul 08 |  Tennis
Briton Robson wins girls' title
05 Jul 08 |  Tennis
Wimbledon day 12 as it happened
05 Jul 08 |  Tennis
Wimbledon photos
05 Jul 08 |  Tennis
Robson sweeps into girls' final
04 Jul 08 |  Tennis
Robson flies flag for Britain
03 Jul 08 |  Tennis


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