British duo Robson and Watson reach top 50


Laura Robson made a small step for one player but a giant leap for British women’s tennis by climbing three places in the world rankings. Robson’s rise to No 50 left the 18-year-old three places behind her compatriot Heather Watson and means that Britain has two women in the world’s top 50 for the first time for 25 years.
It was in 1987, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and the Great Storm cut a swathe through the country, that Britain last had two women – Jo Durie and Sara Gomer – in the top 50. While Robson and 20-year-old Watson have some way to go to emulate Durie, who reached No 5 in the world rankings, the youngsters are steadily rewriting the record books. One of Gomer’s claims to fame, as the last Briton to have won a tournament on the main women’s tour, was erased three months ago when Watson claimed a title in Japan.
Durie, who has remained in tennis as a coach and commentator, believes that Watson and Robson will benefit from each other’s presence. “It’s nice to have someone else around, even if they are a rival,” Durie said. “It does push you. In a way, I was very lucky when you look at the people I followed. Ann Jones won Wimbledon, Virginia Wade won Grand Slams and Sue Barker won the French. In my age group, five of us got into the top 100, so there were always people around. “I was ranked in the top 20 when Sue and Virginia were in the top 10, so there wasn’t actually a lot written about me. Can you imagine that now, what it would be like? But after Sue and Virginia retired and I was the one who was always up there, almost every defeat I suffered seemed to be a disappointment [to other people] because I hadn’t won a Grand Slam. That was very difficult to deal with and it’s one thing that I hope Laura and Heather won’t have, because everyone will be so happy if they just get into the top 20.”
Durie, who used to coach Robson, is reluctant to burden either player with unreasonable expectations but believes both have real potential. She has been impressed by Watson’s steady progress and was delighted by Robson’s big improvement last summer.