“Clicking” Partnership: Laura Robson and Lisa Raymond Roll into Miami Doubles Final

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Lisa Raymond and Laura Robson at the Sony Open

By Jane Voigt

MIAMI, FL (March 29, 2013) — Lisa Raymond nodded at her doubles partner, Laura Robson. Way to put the ball away.

The gesture seemed parental. Given their age difference, Robson is 19 years old and Raymond a few months away from 40, the attention given to the teen fit perfectly.

Raymond is probably the most recognized face in women’s doubles. Her resume is plump with titles: 79 WTA career doubles titles; 11 women’s major titles in doubles; and a career Grand Slam in doubles to boot.

Robson, naturally, can’t compete with Raymond when it comes to doubles titles. However, over the course of the Briton’s time on tour she has wowed tennis. Last summer she and Andy Murray came up with a Silver Medal in mixed doubles at the London Olympics.

“Yeah, what about that?” Raymond said, like an older sister or college pal, while Robson blushed in front of a handful of journalists inside the crowded interview after their match.

Their unlikely pairing was by happenstance. Samantha Stosur, Raymond’s expected partner at Sony Open, pulled out with an injury before registration closed. Raymond jumped on the chance to bring in Robson.

“I always thought we’d suit well,” Raymond began. “With Laura’s huge groundies that allow me to move a little bit at the net, plus a little practice. You never know … but it’s clicking.”

Over the week the team has beaten the No. 6 seeds Rachel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears plus Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, the No. 4 seeds.

Today’s victory, though, had to have been the sweetest. They thumped the world’s No. 1 team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, 61 62, in less than an hour, the same team that has won three of the last four Grand Slam doubles.

“Straight from the start of the match we were firing,” Robson said. “I was trying to be aggressive from the baseline and Lisa definitely took advantage at the net. So, yeah, we had a very good day.”

“It’s funny,” Raymond began, when asked about their partnership. “Some of my most successful partnerships did not fit well at the beginning. Whether it was Stosur or [Liezel] Huber, we floundered for the first couple months. So this is nice to play our first event and click like this.”

With women’s doubles transformed from a serve-and-volley game to one more akin to singles, these two epitomize a balance made for the new-age game. Robson could hit deep from the baseline and Raymond could sense the volleys.

During one exchange Robson pinned Errani deep. Raymond’s sneak volley winner brought fans to their feet in admiration of her touch and their teamwork, an intrinsic sense between the two that is normally only seen in a grooved partnership like Errani’s and Vinci’s.

“Laura’s got so much game, which lets me do so much,” Lisa said. “She’s so powerful with her serve and she’s volleying unbelievable.”

Stadium Court was not stuffed full of fans, but those on hand were definitely behind the wildcards, which made Errani’s and Vinci’s job even tougher. After losing the first set, Errani took a medical time out. She returned with her right thigh wrapped, another sign of their struggle.

Whether it was swirly wind, the bright sun, or an injury, Raymond and Robson took complete advantage of the Italians.

During the last point, which broke the Italians to win the match, Raymond whacked a down-the-line forehand that whizzed past Vinci. Her head dropped. Seconds later, Robson smacked the same shot down her side of the court. The two smiled at each.

“I mean that team … I haven’t come close to winning a set off them in a year,” Raymond added. “So for us to go out there and play that well against them was great.”

Robson credited her elder partner with bringing some focus to her game. When Errani took the medical time out, Laura tried to figure out a Lady Gaga dance. Raymond, though, redirected Robson.

“Let’s focus on the next game,” Raymond told Robson.

Robson’s singles tournament didn’t go well this week. Out in the second round, she felt nervous against Alize Cornet and lost the third set 61.

“Serving out the match today I didn’t have any nerves,” Laura said. “I was having a lot of fun on court just going for everything. In doubles, if they use the “I” formation I can just go for my shot. Whereas in singles you have to think a bit more.”

Both women are thrilled to be in the finals, which will be played Sunday along with the men’s final. But neither woman thought they would make it this far.

“I’ve been here for a couple weeks already,” Laura said, smiling. “I’m loving Miami and looking forward to spending a couple more days here.”

The obvious question for the two is will they continue their partnership.

“That’s something Laura and I could definitely talk about,” Raymond began, when Laura piped up to remind Lisa about her low ranking. “That’s okay, I have unlimited number of wildcards.”

Robson’s youthful spirit has rubbed off on a normally task-driven Raymond. The levity at changeovers and between points has added a new dimension to Raymond’s mindset while Laura has benefited from the experience of a 20-year expert; Robson had no need for a coach during this match.

This exchange of friendship, tennis strategies and tactics, and serve placements is a normal fallout from any doubles partnership. What seems to set these two apart is, number one, they have advanced to the final of a WTA Premier Mandatory event on their inaugural attempt, and, number two, they giggle like kids.

Apparently Raymond has a lucky shower in the site’s locker room, as Laura described it, adding that many players use the same one throughout a tournament.

“I was in the shower after warmup, and I heard Lisa say something like she wondered why I wasn’t in one of the other showers,” Robson began, on the brink of laughter. “But she’s waiting outside mine because it’s her lucky shower as well.”

If their luck continues they could become the 2013 Sony Open’s women’s doubles champions.

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