Laura Robson: The Long Road Back Starts Here

Laura Robson: The Long Road Back Starts Here

Laura Robson is 25 years old. She is ranked 511 in the world and has not played a competitive match for eight months. Until today. Robson made the trip from Bath, where she had commentated with me on the final rubber of Britain’s run to the Fed Cup World Group 2 play-offs, to Shrewsbury, home of an exceptionally well-run but modest ‘futures’ event for young players trying to make their mark, cobble a living together or come back from injury.

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Remembering the 2019 Australian Open

Remembering the 2019 Australian Open

At the end of every Grand Slam I always find myself grappling with two conflicting emotions: sadness and relief. The sadness stems from the resounding comedown following fourteen days of intense action. Grand Slams are like my life companions when they’re on; they fill my days, give me energy, and dictate my mood. When the bubble bursts I quickly begin to miss the tennis. After a fortnight of immersing myself in the event, there’s suddenly a profound emptiness. This year I felt this inevitable low perhaps more keenly than ever before, but only because the high of being in Melbourne had been so high.

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Day 13: The Australian Open In Pictures

Day 13: The Australian Open In Pictures

I always knew I would enjoy my two weeks in Melbourne Park. I didn’t know I would enjoy it this much. Having spent the fortnight telling you what the Australian Open is like, I thought I’d use this penultimate blog to show you what it’s like. From my viewing points on the Rod Laver Arena, to the Margaret Court Arena, and the outside courts, I’ve included pictures from all to try to convey the differences. Around the grounds there are images that hopefully give you a feel for what ticket-holders get to see, if you have never been here, and the detail that the organisers have gone into.

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Day 12: Talent Spotting

Day 12: Talent Spotting

We are all blind to the future, but the business of talent spotting at a junior Grand Slam is a particularly tricky one. How on earth can you figure out who’s going to ‘make it’? A quick glance at the list of junior Grand Slam winners shines light on the difficulty of the task. For every Roger Federer there’s a Wesley Whitehouse, for every Andy Murray there’s a Vladimir Ignatic, for every Simona Halep there’s a Noppawan Lertcheewakarn. Part of the problem is that it can be too easy to get sucked in by the fact that all the juniors play such great tennis. They wouldn’t be at a Grand Slam if they didn’t.

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Day 11: Feeling The Heat

Day 11: Feeling The Heat

Despite all the pre-tournament chatter about the new heat stress scale at this year’s Australian Open, today was actually the first time it became necessary to fully understand the workings of it. It really was an incredibly hot day. Scorching, sweltering, scalding, sizzling; none of these words can really do justice to the experience of spending any amount of time outside today, where the heat was claustrophobic, headache-inducing and inescapable, the kind to bring human life to a standstill. My coping mechanism was simply to spend as little time as possible outside.

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Day 10: A Day At The Doubles

Day 10: A Day At The Doubles

Have you ever been in a room full of people and felt invisible? If so, you’ve sampled life as a doubles player. At the Australian Open, lots and lots of doubles matches are played, but almost all of them seem to take place outside of most people’s consciousness. I’m as guilty as anyone of this neglect: I could give you a very detailed breakdown of the singles tournaments this fortnight, but only the headlines at best from the doubles events. This dynamic is not exclusive to the Australian Open. Most tennis tournaments are like it, although the sheer number of singles matches at Grand Slams perhaps exacerbates the disparity.

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Day 9: New Rules, New Faces

Day 9: New Rules, New Faces

After a couple of days without actually watching too much tennis on court, I ventured out for the evening session on Rod Laver Arena tonight, to witness a flawless performance from Petra Kvitova and Rafael Nadal. While I was out there, a couple of the unanswered questions from Q&A blog came to mind, so I answered them here. What are Australian tennis fans like? Who is the most impressive player to watch in the flesh? Also, I reveal who held the longest press conference of the tournament and who forgot the new rules.

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Day 8: Higher Stakes, Calmer Days

Day 8: Higher Stakes, Calmer Days

We’ve reached week two, and we’ve reached a fascinating juncture in terms of the changing feel of the tournament. The on-court stakes are intensifying, but the behind-the-scenes workload is actually diminishing. Some journalists have already departed. Fewer people will enter the grounds each day. And the locker rooms will empty dramatically. This same paradox occurs at every tennis event. The matches may be more important, but there are far fewer of them, and as such the day is less hectic.

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Day 7: Q&A with Grad Matt

Day 7: Q&A with Grad Matt

I thought I’d do something a little bit different for my blog today by opening up the floor for a good old Q&A. I appealed for questions on Twitter and quite a few came in, so thanks for that. The readers wanted to know: What is the best thing about being on the job with the Tennis Podcast in Melbourne? What’s the hardest part of media work at the Aus Open? Does Kyle Edmund have the grit to challenge for grand slams consistently? Should all the courts dispose of allocated seats and be on a first come first serve basis to create better atmospheres? What is Grad Matt Grad of? When will you be just ‘Matt’?

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Day 6: Osaka Finds Joy Amid Frustration

Day 6: Osaka Finds Joy Amid Frustration

There was only one place to be this morning: Margaret Court Arena for Naomi Osaka vs Hsieh Su-Wei, a match I’d had my eye on as soon as the draw came out. When I got there, it was the first time this week that I struggled to find an empty seat in the section reserved for media. After squeezing along the middle row, desperately trying not to knock people’s laptops off their laps, I nestled myself right in amongst the Japanese press pack who had come out in force for Osaka. What followed was an intense experience – it was a brilliant match and I lived every second with the Japanese journalists.

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Day 5: Finding Amanda Anisimova

Day 5: Finding Amanda Anisimova

I wasn’t sure what to write about today. The extraordinarily late finish following Konta vs Muguruza had left me feeling drained, and regrettably I felt compelled to prioritise getting a bit of rest over getting to Melbourne Park for the first matches of the day. When I arrived, Barty vs Sakkari had finished, and Tsitsipas vs Basilashvili was well underway. In an ideal world, I would have liked to have covered both of those. So, I was looking for inspiration. And it came in the form of 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova. I was expecting Anisimova to challenge Aryna Sabalenka, not to demolish her.

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Day 4: The Viktoria Kuzmova Rollercoaster

Day 4: The Viktoria Kuzmova Rollercoaster

As it turns out, the line between looking like a genius and feeling like an idiot is a pretty thin one. For me, the tipping point came at around 11:45am on Thursday. I’d just made it into the Rod Laver Arena, having spent the past hour legging it back to my hotel where I’d stupidly left my laptop, and this was the moment Viktoria Kuzmova, who I’d picked to reach the quarter-finals, had numerous break points against Elina Svitolina at 4-4 in the first set. She didn’t convert any of them and ended up dropping her own serve in the very next game.

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