The impressions made on the world stage by up and coming stars Heather Watson and Laura Robson have added to Andy Murray’s U.S Open and Olympic victories. Adam Jones predicts a year of success for British Women’s tennis.
If there was ever a time to be excited about British Women’s tennis, it is now. The rise of Heather Watson and Laura Robson into the World’s top 50 seems just the start of their potential, with both still under the age of 21. Their impressive performances in this year’s Australian Open, with both reaching the 3rd round, suggests that the successes of last year were not a fluke and will continue to accelerate into 2013. Watson and Robson are ably supported by the experienced Anne Keothavong and Elena Baltacha, whilst the recent emergence of Johanna Konta means for the first time in a long time there is some depth in women’s tennis. After decades of disappointment on both the men’s and women’s side of the game, the future is starting to look bright from a British perspective.
Watson’s development has been extremely impressive over the last few years. Like many of the sport’s stars she is a product of the prestigious Nick Bollettieri academy in Florida which has seen players like Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova become champions in the past. The 20 year old from Guernsey was successful as a junior, winning the US Open in 2009 and gold at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games. Like her compatriot Robson, 2012 was her breakthrough year, winning her first WTA title at the Japan Open in October and thus becoming the first British woman to win a singles title since Sarah Gomer in 1988. Even more impressive is her versatility, as she reached the 3rd round on the grass at Wimbledon which is generally considered the surface least suited to her style of play.
Robson’s potential has been obvious ever since her victory at Junior Wimbledon in 2007 at the tender age of 14. The immediate pressure heaped upon her shoulders to carry the burden of what was a desolate time in women’s tennis doesn’t seem to have affected her, with the Australian born girl gradually making her way up the world rankings. The 19 year old’s big hitting game has fuelled wins against the likes of Kim Clijsters, Li Na and most recently Petra Kvitova, which proves that she has the game to mix it with the best. Her impressive performance at the US Open in New York last year meant she became the first British woman since 1998 to reach the 4th round of a Grand Slam, completing what was a successful year for the youngster in the major tournaments. It’s no surprise Robson was awarded the WTA Newcomer of the Year for 2012, particularly after securing a silver medal at the London Olympics in the doubles alongside Andy Murray.
The expectation of these two to revive women’s tennis is growing exponentially with their every success but despite being so young, both seem to be coping fine. The potential extends further down the age groups too, as the British under-14 girls team are currently European Champions and lost in the final at the recent World Championships in Florida. From a cynical perspective, it is the least Britain should be achieving considering the funding that the LTA receives and the years of constant disappointment which underlined the internal problems within youth tennis in the country. This, combined with Andy Murray’s rise to the top of the game and victory at the US Open, makes it by far the most exciting era of British tennis in a long time. Finally it seems the constant references to players like Virginia Wade and Sue Barker from decades ago can be extinguished and British female tennis can focus on a genuine hope for the future.