Robson lights up SW19 with Kirilenko win
Laura Robson, grand slam giant killer. The British No. 1 added another top-10 player to her list of victims on the game's greatest stages, ousting 10th seed Maria Kirilenko 6-3 6-4 with a fearless display at Wimbledon.
Kirilenko joined former grand slam champions Kim Clijsters, Li Na and Petra Kvitova on the list of Robson's victims at the big four tournaments in the past 12 months. Last year's quarter-finalist simply had no answer to the Briton's heavy ground strokes, with Robson's forehand in devastating form throughout a one-sided contest.
Robson, who just a month ago looked so deflated following her French Open first-round exit at the hands of Caroline Wozniacki, was quickly into her stride on Court One, serving well and dictating play against the tenth seed.
Kirilenko did little wrong - the Russian didn't hit a single unforced error in the entire first set - but Robson consistently came out on top in the longer rallies, arrowing flat ground strokes into the corners and finding the lines at will.
Laser-focused, Robson broke Kirilenko in the eighth game with three unplayable returns and shot out into a 40-0 lead at 5-3. Only then did she suffer a slight wobble as the Russian junk-balled her way back to 40-30, but a shanked return sealed the first set won by a British woman at this year's Wimbledon.
Groans went up from the Wimbledon crowd when Robson fluffed a drop shot from point-blank range in the third game of the second set, but the 19-year-old bounced back with another ripped forehand to move 30-40 up on Kirilenko's serve, finishing the job with a well-worked rally that took the Russian out of the court.
With Kirilenko running out of ideas, Robson struck again, following up a routine service hold with three more breath-taking winners to move 0-40 up. Kirilenko dug deep to rally to deuce, but a netted backhand opened the door to Robson once more, who slotted away another forehand winner to move 4-1 ahead.
Then came the wobble: a framed backhand was the first sign of jitters and sent Kirilenko on her way to a break back. The Robson of the first set would surely have broken once more in the very next game but let the Russian off the hook, and suddenly her lead was cut to 4-3.
Robson was not to be denied, however. She steadied the ship with a nervy but well-earned hold, and though Kirilenko forced her to serve the match out the world No. 37 rose to the challenge, looping one final forehand deep onto the tramline to keep British hopes alive in the second round of the women's draw.
But the early crowd who had gathered at Court 2 were left disappointed as the British No. 2 bowed out on the wrong end of a 6-3 7-5 scoreline.
World No. 56 Watson showed early signs of promise with an immaculate opening service game, but it didn't last long as she allowed her American opponent - ranked just four places above her in the world standings - to sneak ahead. Clinging on, Watson picked a terrible time to serve a double fault and effectively handed Keys the opening set.
Watson had the shot in the arm she needed and was quick out the blocks in the second set to immediately break - but cheers were soon groans when Watson fired a backhand into the net and Keys was level just five points later.
But a stunning drop shot from the British No. 2 saw her break for a second time - the third game in a row - and it looked like the tide was turning.
Keys, meanwhile, had other plans and the powerful Illinoisan pummelled Watson with a series of big serves and unstoppable forehands to break back late in the second. But it was a slice of fortune that ultimately won the match as two points - including match point - were won with net cords.
Tara Moore remained Britain's last hope of the first round, and the fiery 20-year-old put up a tremendous fight against Kaia Kanepi before bowing out 7-5 5-7 7-5 to the Estonian who reached the quarter finals in 2010.
Robson's second round opponent will be Colombian qualifier Mariana Duque-Marino, who beat German Julia Georges 6-4 6-7(3) 7-5, while Keys will face 30th seed Mona Barthel, who also needed three sets to see off Monica Niculescu 6-3 4-6 7-5, in the second round. Kanepi's next task is to get past seventh sees Angelique Kerber, who beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands in straight sets.
Elsewhere, 13th seed Nadia Petrova was beaten by Karolina Pliskova in straight sets.