Laura Robson making her mark

ANDY Murray believes Laura Robson can qualify for this month's Australian Open after partnering the teenager to the final of the Hopman Cup.

The world No 4 four has been impressed by the 15-year-old this week as their dream run to the final of the mixed teams event ended with a 2-1 defeat to Spain in the final yesterday.

Murray had spearheaded Great Britain's charge to the title decider, but it was Robson, seven years his junior, who stole the singles limelight yesterday when she upset Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez – the 26th-ranked player in the world – 6-1, 7-6 (8/6). Robson's first victory over a top-30 player came after it had been confirmed she had been given a wildcard into qualifying for the first grand slam of the year.

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"I'm sure Laura can speak for herself, but this week was a great experience for her," Murray said. "She did great beating a girl who is ranked 26 in the world. At her age that is amazing. She has the potential. I know what it's like at that age and she is only going to get better."

Murray had not lost a singles match at the Burswood Dome this week, but failed to take his chance to secure the tie when he wasted an impressive start to lose 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 against Tommy Robredo. Murray looked on course for an easy win when he blitzed the world No 16 in the first set with more of the huge hitting he had displayed all week.

But Robredo refused to buckle and as Murray's form dipped, the Spaniard broke serve in the tenth game to take the second set. One break, in the second game, put Robredo ahead in the decider and he held his nerve to clinch a morale-boosting win.

The Scot was made to pay for not closing out the tie as Spain then won the mixed doubles. The Spaniards then saved three set points in the opening set of a dramatic match before going on to clinch the title 7-6 (8/6), 7-5. Martinez Sanchez said Robredo was "the hero".

For his part, Murray pinned the blame on himself. "I kind of let her down today so I feel bad about that," said the Scot, who also revealed Robson – despite earning the largest cheque of her career (75,000 Australian dollars, about 43,000) – had been disappointed to miss out on the winners' trophy of a diamond-encrusted tennis ball. "She is perhaps more disappointed than me because of the diamonds, but I told her she can buy them with the prize money."

The 403rd-ranked Robson has drawn the praise of her opponents during the week including world No 5 Elena Dementieva and admitted she was feeling confident ahead of her quest to qualify for the Australian Open. "I was getting more confident throughout the week because I was playing well against these higher-ranked girls," she said. "Today was really good in singles. I think I played really good. I knew I could play that well it was just maintaining it throughout the match and I'm going to go into Melbourne full of energy."

Despite that the left-hander, who was born in Melbourne, remained coy on her hopes of reaching the main draw at the Australian Open.

Qualifying begins on 14 January and Robson, who will also play in the junior girls event, will need to negotiate three rounds to book her place. "It depends on the draw and everything else," she said. "But I'm there for juniors anyway."

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Former junior Wimbledon champion Robson was not given much chance against Martinez Sanchez, ranked 377 places above her, but she produced an outstanding display to make a mockery of the huge rankings gulf.