By Tumaini Carayol
(May 6, 2013) Though the smell of sun lotion still lingered permanently in the air, by the time Laura Robson and Agnieszka Radwanska shuffled onto the third biggest court in the Caja Magica, the sun that earlier shone down furiously over the stadium had long since departed. Replacing the impossible shadows it created was a level shade as visibility reached 20/20 for the first time all day.
Since the Australian Open, Robson had managed only two victories in her previous nine WTA matches. Her game appeared to collapse, playing to the level of lower-ranked opponents she should beat. So when Laura Robson and Agnieszka Radwanska were paired together, though their names appeared an interesting match on paper, the idea that the Brit would actually win on clay seemed impossible.
Despite that, as Robson stepped up to the baseline the very first time, something had changed. From the very first point – a well-struck first serve followed by an irreverent forehand down-the-line winner – she appeared cool and confident, a deadly combination. That point would set the tone for the remainder of the match as the following games showcased Robson at her ball-striking best. There is a tendency for people to make rash comparisons with Robson’s fellow big-hitting lefty Petra Kvitova, but whilst the Czech also combines great technique and clean shotmaking, Robson’s aggression is a product of her perfect timing as opposed to the brutal natural power Kvitova wields.
Still, the fourth seed initially held resolute on her opening service games, forcing return errors and refusing to relinquish the parity that graced the first six games. However, as Robson slowly began to find her range on her return of serve – particularly her angled crosscourt backhand return – the match brisquely cracked open.
At 4-3, Robson charged. During the prior game, Robson had quite literally charged down a deft lob from Radwanska, spectacularly turning the point on its head with defense that was unimaginable a year earlier. She carried this momentum into the following game and, after brushing aside a number of Radwanska game points, she was offered her first break point. Only a routine second serve forehand return stood between the Brit’s forehand flew long. However, presented with an identical forehand on her second set points moments later, Robson showed great maturity to simply put the return back into play. Radwanska’s forehand crashed straight into the net and she had her first game.
With the remaining shackles released, Robson refused to look back as she held her serve to love, sealing the set with a laughably composed ad-court serve out wide followed by a simple forehand winner to the opposite corner. Only one game was lost in the second set as she powered to the biggest victory of her career, demolishing the fourth best player in the world on her worst surface.
In essence, the Brit moved in perfect unison with the stadium as, in the cool shade of zero pressure, she shone once again.