Are Robson & Ward returning to form?

Laura Robson and James Ward have had differing fortunes early this week, but both are winning matches

Are Robson & Ward returning to form?

Laura Robson has been out of the WTA Tour for a long time with her wrist injury. Having taken wild cards into qualifying rounds the Brit has not been that successful on her return, not winning many matches. Taking to the clay in Rabat, Robson drew a wildcard in the form of Ghita Benhadi. With the disparity in the rankings the Brit was expected to win this, however her return to form has not the best in the lead up to the event. Winning the odd match but then losing in the next round or not even progressing through the first round of qualifying.

Early round losses

Robson needed some matches and competitive tennis to regain her confidence and move back up the rankings. Currently languishing at 426 as her ranking slipped because of the injury, the Brit has pulled herself back up to that position from down in the 500's. Using a protected ranking of 58 Robson will enter the French Open without needing to qualify or be given a wild card.

The first round match in Rabat against Benhadi, was more or less one way traffic for the Brit. In under an hour Robson had won in straight sets, and with ease. Losing only 2 games as the Brit dominated both sets. Benhadi was outplayed and outclassed as Robson delivered a 6-1 6-1 double breadstick victory to take match and move into the second round.

The second round match was a much tougher match as Robson as the Brit was against the fifth seed Timea Babos. The Hungarian is ranked 40 and with current rankings Robson was definitely the underdog. This time the match did not go the way Robson and her fans would have wanted, Babos showed the ranking difference as in just under an hour she took the Brit out in straight sets 6-1, 6-2. Although disappointing it does appear that Robson could well be on her way back again, a few more wins will bring her back up to where she should be.

Photo: The Times
Photo: The Times

Meanwhile James Ward has been struggling for form this year. Dropping down the rankings to 180 the Brit has not been having a good time lately. After suffering the loss of his coach and mentor to cancer at the end of last year, and having to take on a new coach, Morgan Phillips, who just happens to be a very good friend, Ward has lost more matches than he has won.

However, moving to Tallahassee, Florida and the Brit found himself against the Frenchman Axel Michon, ranked 228. The first was very tight as the players exchanged breaks of serve and went to a tiebreak. Ward was 6-1 up in the breaker before the Michon came back, however the Brit secured the first set 7-5 in the breaker.

Back to back wins

In the tournament the week before Ward had won the first set in his first round match against a lower ranked player, but went on to lose in three sets. This time however, things were different. Ward streaked out to a 5-1 lead in the second set, but once again Michon came back to 5-4. The Brit was not letting go of this and served out to take the match in straight sets. Immediately following a short rest, Ward was back on court with his coach to play the doubles first round. This was another straight sets win for Ward as they broke once each set to take it 6-4, 6-4.

With a day off, Ward was back on the court to take on the second round opponent of Calvin Hemery. Another Frenchman for the Brit to overcome, Hemery is ranked 223 so slightly higher than Michon. Ward had little difficulty in this match as he took the first set 6-4, the Brit then dominated the second set taking it 6-0. Ward has not had back to back wins for a while, so to win three in a row when including the doubles, is great news for the British number five. Having slipped a long way from his career high ranking of 89 achieved last year at Wimbledon, and a long way from the scene of his biggest victory to date back in Glasgow in March 2015, it is good to have the Brit winning matches that he should be doing, and winning them in straight sets.