LONDON -- Laura Robson gave her home fans something to cheer at Wimbledon on Tuesday, becoming the first British woman to defeat a top-10 player at the All England Club in 15 years when she beat 10th-seeded Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the grass-court tournament.
The 19-year-old Robson followed in the footsteps of Sam Smith, who upset No. 7 Conchita Martinez in 1998 at Wimbledon.
Robson, a former junior champion at Wimbledon, entered Court 1 with a lot of pressure on her shoulders after seven British players had lost their first-round matches.
Her victory created a huge buzz on social networks, with even Britain's Prime minister David Cameron taking to Twitter to comment on Robson's win, her third over a top-10 player in Grand Slam.
"Great to hear (at)LauraRobson5 beat the number 10 seed Maria Kirilenko at (hashtag)Wimbledon," Cameron wrote.
A couple of hours later, her compatriot Tara Moore lost 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 to Kaia Kanepi to leave Robson and Andy Murray as the only remaining Britons in singles.
Amid stinging criticism from the local media, Robson jumped to the defence of her fellow players when asked what was wrong with women's tennis in Britain.
"Nothing," she said. "I think everyone had tough matches. Before this week, everyone was playing really well. So it's unfortunate that no one else made the second round. But that happens sometimes. Last year I lost in the first round. So, you go through stages of ups and downs like everyone else."
Playing with Murray, Robson won silver at the London Olympics in the mixed doubles competition. But she first caught the spotlight overseas last year at the U.S. Open, when she defeated Kim Clijsters in the Belgian's final singles match of her career. Robson then beat Li Na to become the first British woman to reach the fourth round at any Grand Slam event since 1991.
Although Kirilenko did not make a single unforced error in the first set, the 38th-ranked Robson got off to a strong start, using her big serve to keep her opponent at bay. She then had to overcome a bout of nervousness at 4-1 in the second set, when she dropped her serve for the first time following a string of unforced errors.
"I think (this win) was a big one for me because although I really like grass and I seem to play well on it, I've never actually done overly well here," Robson said after wrapping up the match with a forehand winner. "I've only made the second round once. So, yeah, it was a big win for me. I think it was good that I managed to tough it out after I got so nervous in the second set."
Robson said she'll try not to get carried away, but that she believes in her chances to make a deep run in the tournament.
"I think I go out against the top players with nothing to lose, and I've always been like that," she said.
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