Laura Robson takes easy route back to top table
The 20-year-old suffered a left wrist injury more than a year ago and has not played a match since the first round in Melbourne last January, when she was clearly far from fully fit in a heavy loss to Kirsten Flipkens.
Robson subsequently opted to have surgery and had hoped to be back in time for the year’s first grand slam, which begins on 19 January.
That looked unlikely when the entry list was released last month without the former British No 1’s name on it.
She could have arranged a wild card into either the main draw or qualifying but will instead ease herself back onto the tour. Robson’s return is due to come on the second-tier ITF circuit next month while her first WTA Tour event could be in Bogota in early April.
The Australian-born Londoner faces a long road to get back to anywhere near the career-high ranking of 27 she reached last July, but her main priority for the season will simply be staying healthy.
Meanwhile, an inspired display from Lucie Safarova guided the Czech Republic to a 2-1 victory against Canada on the opening day of the Hopman Cup in Perth.
The world No 16 romped to a 6-0 6-4 win over seventh-ranked Eugenie Bouchard in the ladies singles, before teaming up with Adam Pavlasek to beat Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil 6-4 6-2 in the doubles tie.
Pospisil had earlier drawn Canada level at the Perth Arena with a 7-6 (7/5) 6-2 triumph against Pavlasek in the men’s singles.
Agnieszka Radwanska gave Poland the advantage over Australia when she eased to a 6-2, 6-3 win over Casey Dellacqua. Jerzy Janowicz then fought back and won ten successive games to defeat Matt Ebden 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 and give Poland a 2-0 victory.
Janowicz, who was a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2013, explained his poor start. “I woke up at 2pm. I think it’s called jet lag,” the Pole said on the official Hopman Cup Twitter feed.
The Great Britain team of Andy Murray and Heather Watson play their first tie this morning against the French pairing of Alize Cornet and Benoit Paire. Murray did not have to play a match to win the exhibition Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi after world No 1 Novak Djokovic withdrew through illness aheadl.
The Serbian had looked in fine nick in brushing aside Stan Wawrinka in the last four on Friday but felt unable to take to the court to defend his title.
Djokovic’s withdrawal denied Murray the chance to follow up his impressive rout of Rafael Nadal in the last four with another confidence-boosting win over one of his biggest rivals.
But it also meant the 27-year-old did not have to test out his left shoulder after experiencing pain in it during his 6-2 6-0 win over Nadal.
Murray had been baffled by the problem, telling reporters: “I don’t know exactly what happened. I’ve never had anything happen to my left shoulder before.
“It’s pretty sore and at the end of the match when I was reaching out to sign autographs it was quite painful.”
A scan on Saturday proved reassuring, while Nadal secured his first victory of the season by beating Wawrinka 7-6 (7/1) 6-3 to claim third place. Nadal will have more opportunities to tune up for the year’s first grand slam when he defends his title at the Qatar Open this week. Djokovic will join him in the field in Doha provided he recovers quickly from his fever.
Back in Perth, the United States team of Serena Williams and John Isner also get their first taste of action today as they take on Flavia Pennetta and Fabio Fognini of Italy.
Seeds Andrea Petkovic and Jelena Jankovic crashed out in the opening round of the Brisbane International yesterday. German fifth seed Petkovic fell at the first hurdle when she was beaten 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 by Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, who won the 2012 event. Jankovic was also sent packing from the tournament – a traditional warm-up event for the Australian Open – as Croatia’s Ajla Tomljanovic secured a 7-6, (8/6) 6-0 victory over the sixth seed in one hour and 45 minutes.
Seventh seed Carla Suarez Navarro succeeded where Petkovic and Jankovic failed as she recovered from going a set down to earn a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova.
Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina had a much more straightforward passage to the second round as she wrapped up a 6-0, 6-2 win against Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia in 68 minutes.
Home favourite Samantha Stosur’s interest in the tournament was ended by American Varvara Lepchenko, who fought back from a set down to win 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in two-and-a-half hours.
In China. fifth seed Klara Koukalova crashed out in the first round of the Shenzhen Open as she went down in three sets to Russia’s Anna Schmiedlova.
The Czech world No 40 was beaten 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7/5) in two hours and 24 minutes.
Zarina Diyas, the fourth seed from Kazakhstan, had no such problems as she swept past Croatia’s Donna Vekic, sealing a 6-3, 6-1 win in less than an hour. Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky, the eighth seed, beat her compatriot Stefanie Voegele 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
Russia’s Natalia Vikhlyantseva, Hungary’s Timea Babos and Zheng Saisai from China were also first-round winners yesterday.