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Laura Robson stuns Petra Kvitova in epic clash at Australian Open

Britain's Laura Robson celebrates after defeating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill) Britain's Laura Robson celebrates after defeating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)

Thursday, January 17, 2013
2:17 PM

Laura Robson tonight stunned eighth seed Petra Kvitova in an epic second-round encounter at the Australian Open.

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The British number two joined Heather Watson in the last 32 after edging a topsy-turvy encounter in which both players struggled to find their best form until the latter stages.

Eventually it was Robson who prevailed 2-6 6-3 11-9 to move through to a meeting with another rising star, American Sloane Stephens.

Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion has been struggling for confidence in recent months - she has not won two consecutive matches since the US Open - and suffered early-round defeats at the warm-up events in Brisbane and Sydney.

And she again appeared mentally fragile, especially in the deciding set, as Robson held her nerve rather than the more experienced Czech.

“I knew it was going to be really tough, I always struggle to play lefties anyway,” said Robson.

“But I knew once I got my returns firing and had more confidence in my serve I would get into the match and that’s what I managed to do.”

The first set was not one for the purist with Robson’s opening service game setting the tone.

She started with two double faults and followed that up with a forehand error and a weak volley to gift her opponent an early break.

Kvitova was unable to consolidate it, though, as Robson hit back immediately to level at 1-1.

Both players were continuing to struggle on serve and Robson had to stave off a break point, before serving two aces to claim a 2-1 lead.

But from there it fell apart for the 18-year-old.

She was broken again in the fifth game and once more as she started to spray her groundstrokes around Rod Laver Arena.

She almost delayed the concession of the first set but wasted six break points as Kvitova held on to claim the opener.

Having been marginally the more consistent player in the first, Kvitova promptly fell apart in the second.

Robson surged into a 5-1 lead and after a wobble which saw the world number eight halve the deficit, the Briton levelled the match.

The world number 53 sensed an upset and had a spring in her step at the start of the decider.

But Kvitova came again.

Having held, she then started charging the net in Robson’s next service game and it proved a clever tactic, a third venture forward handing her a 2-0 lead after Robson netted a makeable forehand.

The momentum was firmly with the Czech and a love service game saw her jump out to a 3-0 lead.

Robson held and then got the break back as, from nowhere, Kvitova threw in three double faults in an awful game to lose the advantage.

In keeping with the match, Robson promptly handed her it back, more serving woe compounded by a netted backhand on break point.

And so it continued, Robson breaking again to change ends at 3-4 down.

There was eventually a hold as the teenager made it 4-4.

The standard was finally improving as the match reached its crucial stages, both players holding before Robson profited from yet another Kvitova mental meltdown to break for a 6-5 lead.

She could not serve it out, however, being broken to 15 as nerves got to the younger woman.

Two holds followed before a disputed line call at 7-7, 30-30, unsettled Kvitova but, to her credit, she came through to again pile the pressure on Robson.

She held firm as the match, remarkably, then went into a spell of being dominated by serve until Robson broke for a 10-9 lead.

And this time Kvitova had no reply as Robson served it out to go through in three hours.

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