Robson shocks Clijsters
Laura Robson came of age with a stunning performance at the US Open to send Kim Clijsters into retirement - and then revealed the hardest thing was not singing along to the music at the change of ends.
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The 18-year-old has long threatened this type of result and could not have chosen a bigger stage on which to record by some distance the best win of her career, winning 7-6 (7/4) 7-6 (7/5) on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Clijsters is one of the US Open's favourite daughters having won three of her four grand slam titles here, in 2005, 2009 and 2010.
A combination of injury and a first spell in retirement kept her away from Flushing Meadows in the intervening years and she went into today's match looking to extend a run of 22 straight wins stretching back to the final in 2003, when Robson was nine.
Clijsters, who has a four-year-old daughter, announced earlier this year that this tournament would be her last and, although she still has doubles to come, there will be no fairytale fourth singles title.
Robson relished the occasion and said: "I've always loved playing on a big stage. I think I thrive in a good atmosphere and I feel like I play better on big courts when I have a lot of support. It's easier when you have less pressure on you.
"I really enjoyed myself out there. I was just trying not to sing at the change of ends. I managed to sing along once to the Taylor Swift song. I couldn't help myself."
Robson, who next faces compatriot Heather Watson's conqueror and ninth seed Li Na, praised Clijsters on court after the match as a great role model, but she kept all thoughts of what a win would mean for her opponent out of her mind.
She said: "I didn't think about that during the whole match at all. If I thought about that, I would have been a lot more nervous for sure.
"It's definitely disappointing to see her retire because she's such a great addition to the women's game.
"She's always been someone that I've looked up to since I started on the tour. She's always been incredibly nice to be around. I think we're all going to miss her."
Robson, who had only ever won two main-draw matches at grand slams previously, began a little slowly while Clijsters flew out of the blocks and quickly established a 5-2 lead.
But the British number three played her way into the match and chose her moment to strike, breaking back when Clijsters served for the set.
Robson then had to save three set points in the 12th game as her big serve came to her rescue, and Clijsters was in the ascendancy again when she led 4-3 in the tie-break.
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But Robson drilled two stunning returns past her opponent and then clinched the set with two more big serves.
She wobbled slightly in the third game of the second set, throwing in two double faults to be broken, but she hit straight back and suddenly it was Clijsters under pressure.
The Belgian showed her fighting qualities by saving two match points at 5-6 but there was nothing she could do when Robson nailed a forehand down the line to bring up a third in the tie-break, and this time she took it with a big serve.
Robson has twice pushed Maria Sharapova hard at Wimbledon, most recently in the second round of the Olympics a month ago, and she was delighted to finish off the job this time.
The Londoner said: "In the first-set tie-break I was thinking 'I've had a few tough tie-breaks and lost them, so it would be pretty nice to win this one.'
"But I think every match I play against a tough opponent, like Sharapova, I get more experience from it and I learn a lot, and that's what I tried to bring on court today.
"And I thought I played really solid in both tie-breaks. I think previously I just sort of slipped up a little bit in the key moments. Today I managed to stick with it.
"That's what I'm really happy with today, that I managed to keep it up for the whole match."
Clijsters achieved one of the most remarkable grand slam victories of all time in 2009 only a month after ending two and a half years in retirement, and she struggled to contain her emotions as she contemplated the end.
She said: "One of my biggest dreams came true in 2005 winning here. Every time I came back I was so inspired by the energy on this court.
"I've played some of my best tennis and my best matches here. This feels like the perfect place to retire, I just wish it wasn't today.
"Laura played extremely well today. I fought, I gave it my all and it wasn't good enough. Since I retired the first time it's been a great adventure for my team and my family and it's all been worth it, but I do look forward to the next part of my life."