Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Watson and Robson have time on their side

There was a time when 19 would be considered too late to make a breakthrough at the top of women's game. Many of the game's female legends had started to win slams in their teenage years, with retirement beckoning for some in their mid-20s in an environment well-known for burnout.

Times have changed. Players are now more athletic and physically stronger, making it difficult for a precocious but comparatively frail teenager to storm to majors and into the world's top 20. Child stars are perhaps never to emerge like they did in the 80s and 90s, with experience and maturity being a factor as much as the necessary physical attributes. Those looking at the Wimbledon tennis betting should remember this.

There are only two teenagers in the top 50 of the WTA rankings, with the new breed of challengers having a few years' of tour experience behind them. Julia Goeges, Andrea Petkovic and Petra Kvitova have all made rapid strides only when they have reached their early-20s.

This bodes well for Heather Watson and Laura Robson, Britain's two great female tennis hopes. Aged 19 and 17 respectively, they have time to develop physically and mentally, with Watson's faster improvement over the past 18 months a clear indicator of how time on tour is crucial.

Watson is likely to enter the top 100 after the French Open, where she became the first British woman to win a Roland Garros match for 17 years. Robson has reached something of a plateau after showing her talent sooner, winning her junior slam a year earlier, but the talented lefthander has even more time on her side.

It is too early to predict Wimbledon championships for either, but their speed of progression is encouraging, whereas it would once have been considered too slow.

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