Laura Robson looked every bit like the future of British women's tennis when she dumped world No. 10 Maria Kirilenko out of the first round of Wimbledon in straight sets on Tuesday.
In front of a packed crowd on Court No. 1, Robson blitzed by the Russian, 6-3, 6-4 in 78 minutes in their first-ever meeting.
It marked the first time a British woman had defeated a Top 10 player at Wimbledon in 15 years since Sam Smith beat seventh-seeded Conchita Martinez in 1998.
"I'm still so nervous," Robson told the BBC in her post-game presser. "Even after that last point, I didn't know whether the forehand was in or out.
"It was a big one for me, just because all of the nerves and playing in front of your home crowd at Wimbledon. It was a big one."
Robson, who had won just nine matches this year and lost to Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets at Eastbourne last week, will meet Colombian qualifier Mariana Duque-Marino in the second round. Duque-Marino edged past Julia Goerges 7-5 in three sets.
Kirilenko entered Wimbledon having won 29 of 40 matches this year, but she had no answer for the hard-hitting left-hander who dominated proceedings behind a strong first serve and barrage of powerful forehand ground strokes.
The 19-year-old hit 31 winners and 17 unforced errors, dictating play from the baseline against Kirilenko who was limited to eight winners in 19 games. Robson won 80 percent of the point when she got her first serve in, aided by eight aces, and she also won eight of 10 points when she came to the net.
Ranked 38th in the world, Robson—who lost in the first round to Italian Francesca Schiavone in three sets here last year—came out of the gate strongly and was in full stride by the fifth game when she showed the full range of her game.
She hit a running forehand down the line for an outright winner, recovered a Kirilenko drop shot at the net, unloaded another outright winner from the forehand side from the deuce side and wrapped up her third service hold with an unreturnable forehand down the line from the ad court.
Kirilenko continued to serve to Robson's forehand, even after the Brit began shading to that side. When Kirilenko attacked the backhand, Robson seemed content to play the percentages with cross-court shots until something opened up on the other wing.
Robson hit five balls—including consecutive aces—to move ahead 4-3 in the first set and she broke Kirilenko for the first time with a clean backhand winner cross-court at 15-40 in the very next game.
Robson consolidated the break and served out the first set at the third opportunity, wrapping up a strong opening set in 32 minutes.
As well as Robson played to start the match, it was just a preview of things to come.
A backhand down the line at 30-40 in the third game of the second set gave Robson an early break, and she followed that up with a love service game to forge ahead, 3-1.
The Brit showed maturity to overcome a brief couple nervous games, and while her error count climbed and her first-serve percentage dropped, the lull was merely a footnote on an otherwise outstanding display of clinical, overpowering hitting.
Kirilenko saved three more break points in the next game before another forehand return made it 4-1, and even though Kirilenko won back-to-back games to get to 4-3, Robson had little difficulty serving out the match at the first attempt.
After 78 minutes, and with a pair of match points, Robson hit a clean winner off the line before giving a smiling shrug of almost disbelief.
"I could have gone up 5-1 in the second, but I lost my focus a little bit and started thinking about winning," said Robson, who won a silver medal at SW19 with Andy Murray in the mixed doubles at the Olympics last summer. "I tried to get back to focusing point by point."
This marks the third top-10 scalp of the season for Robson, who edged eighth seed Petra Kvitova in the Australian Open in January and dropped just four games against world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska on the red clay of Madrid in May.
It also continues Robson's flair for the dramatic at the slams. Last year she beat Kim Clijsters and Na Li at the US Open before falling to Sam Stosur in the round of 16.
How far she'll go at this year's Wimbledon remains to be seen, but if her play continues at this level, she'll have an abundance of chances to win the coveted Rosewater Dish throughout her career.
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