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Memories haunt Laura Robson as she crashes out of Australian Open qualifying

Press Association logoPress Association 12/01/2017 From Tom Allnutt, Press Association Sport, Melbourne
Wimbledon 2016 - Day One - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club © PA WIRE Wimbledon 2016 - Day One - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club

Laura Robson's last Australian Open had sparked an 18-month injury nightmare and she admits the memories still lingered as the British number five lost in the first round of qualifying to France's Amandine Hesse.

Robson missed five grand slams in a row after aggravating a wrist injury at Melbourne Park in 2014 and, despite finally regaining her fitness, the 22-year-old is yet to recover her form.

Her 6-2 6-4 defeat to world number 205 Hesse means Robson has failed to win a competitive match since September, when a run to the US Open first round, on the back of claiming an ITF title in Pennsylvania, had offered real signs of progress. 

But while there were glimpses here, particularly during a late fightback in the second set, of her excellent ball-striking from the back, too many errors, including nine double faults, cost the world number 222 dear against a steady but unspectacular opponent.

"I didn't really feel nervous. I just felt flat," Robson said.

"I had a weird thought just before I went on court where, not in a negative way, I thought last time I played a match here I then didn't play for 18 months.

"It maybe wasn't the best thing to happen before a match."

There was a strong British contingent of support amongst an otherwise sparsely populated Court 13, among them Robson's coach Lucie Ahl, Jeremy Bates, Britain's new Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong and the LTA's performance director Simon Timson.

Robson, however, struggled for rhythm early on in relatively mild temperatures of 23 degrees Celsius and a missed short forehand gifted Hesse one break and then a double fault conceded another for 5-2.

Hesse closed out the set and took a third break in the opening game of the second, again via a double fault, but Robson looked finally to be getting into her stride when a rasping forehand winner levelled the set at 4-4.

Just as she grabbed the momentum, however, a poor service game handed it back and Hesse sealed progress on her second match point when a Robson return landed long.

"I just never got going, it felt like my feet were stuck in mud," Robson said.

"I was trying to pump myself up, moving around a lot between points, trying to get something going, it never happened.

"When it got a little bit closer in the second I was waiting for some momentum switch. It was annoying not to play the way I wanted to, especially frustrating because I got here a good few days ago and was playing really well in practice.

"I played a lot practice sets and felt really confident, then I set foot on court and it felt the opposite."

While Hesse advances to meet the American doubles specialist Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Robson will now return to Europe for two ITF tournaments in France before February's Fed Cup tie against Estonia.

Tara Moore lost out to Robson in selection for the British team and she also fell at the first hurdle of Australian Open qualifying, going down in three sets to Hungary's Dalma Galfi.

Moore, the world number 165, edged the first set on a tie-break but her opponent, three places higher in the rankings, battled back before sweeping the final set to claim a 6-7 (2/7) 6-3 6-1 victory.

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