Laura Robson has credited Heather Watson as a spearhead for the new wave of female tennis players in Britain.
Robson and Watson have been fast friends on and off the court since they were juniors and with Robson now retired, the British number three continues to be an inspiration for others to pick up a racket.
The 30-year-old has won nine titles over her career, including the mixed-doubles alongside Henri Kontinen at the 2016 Wimbledon Championships.
Robson said: “Heather and I are the oldies now which hurts me to say.
“It’s fantastic. When we were growing up it was basically just us two and then Joanna Konta was around as well but didn’t really start playing in the UK until older.
“We first went on a trip together when I was 11, she was 13, so we’ve known each other that long and actually before that anyway.”
British tennis now has the likes of Emma Raducanu, Harriet Dart, Katie Boulter, Jodie Burrage and Katie Swan all within the nation’s top six female players.
And Robson is thrilled to see a close-knit group of athletes who are able to compete against each other within the same nation.
“We were talking about it just a couple of months ago just how nice it is for all the youngsters to have five or six other girls to compete with, to train with and to progress together.
“There’s a real competitive vibe in a good way, it pushes you along.”
Watson reached the fourth round of Wimbledon for the first time in her career at the 2022 Championships, beating Kaja Juvan in two sets.
And although the 2012 Japan Open winner recently retired from her opening draw at the Canadian Open, Robson hopes that a strong grass-court season has set the tone for what’s to come.
She said: “It’s just been amazing to still go through this journey with her and even though I’m retired now, I still follow her results and catch up with her.
“She’s just in a really great head space after Wimbledon. She had that amazing breakout tournament to get to the fourth round of a slam for the first time.
“Unfortunately she didn’t get any points from it which would have been super helpful but I still think it’s that confidence that it gives you going into the rest of the year.”
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