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Two defeats look similar but feel very different . . .

There has always been something of the ying and yang about Laura Robson and Heather Watson and while they were united in defeat here yesterday, they will leave Melbourne with rather different feelings.

Laura Robson seemed to be affected by a wrist injury. Picture: Getty
Laura Robson seemed to be affected by a wrist injury. Picture: Getty

For Robson, humbled by Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium after a niggling wrist injury left her short of match practice, there is obvious frustration and growing impatience to find the form and consistency to match her talent. For Watson, edged out by the experienced Slovak Daniela Hantuchova in three sets, there is encouragement that after months of struggle to overcome glandular fever, she is finally on the right track again.

Robson was at her erratic worst yesterday as she went down 6-3, 6-0 to Flipkens in 50 minutes. She was never able to find her timing and was also undone by some smart play from the Belgian, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon last summer.

Robson refused to make an issue of the wrist problem during the match but some of her backhands, which fell halfway up the net, suggested that it may have been an issue in her performance. With her 20th birthday falling a week today, she still has ample time to come good and with the easy power she possesses, the Melbourne-born player will always be capable of big wins.

However, with her world ranking to now drop to around the 60 mark, the sooner she finds that consistency the better. "Definitely they [matches like these] motivate you to do better and be as fit as possible, and that's what I'll do in the next couple of weeks," Robson said. "It's a tough one today, but everyone has those kind of days and you have to just come back from them stronger."

Watson was far more upbeat after a tough 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 defeat by Hantuchova, who showed her experience in the final set. "I've played 10 matches this year already; if you'd have told me that last year, I would have taken it in a second," she said. "Even though I might be dropping in the rankings, I'm not worried about it because I feel like I've had a good start to the year, I've improved as a player and it's been a positive few weeks."

The defeat will drop Watson to around No.160 in the rankings but having proved her fitness by winning three qualifying matches and then pushed a seeded player hard, she is ready to work her way back towards the top 50.

"I'm fine with that as long as it [her ranking] doesn't get too low," she said, when asked about the prospect of playing in some lesser events. "I feel like sometimes it's a good thing playing lower down, winning matches and getting confidence and I think that what I need right now is matches."

It was striking that Scotland's Elena Baltacha, who retired from the game just before Christmas, felt moved to offer her support for both British players, tweeting that she was "sure they would come good".

The next opportunity for both Robson and Watson to gain some confidence could be next month in the Fed Cup, when they will team up to try to get Britain into the top flight of the competition. It is an event which generally brings the best out of both players and yesterday's draw - it put Britain with Hungary, Latvia and Romania - gives them a fighting chance of getting through to a world group play-off. "I'm really looking forward to Fed Cup," Robson said. "As a team we seem to work pretty well."

Watson acknowledged that Britain's team spirit would help them do well in Hungary. "It sucks that we're back to the groups but we've qualified twice and it's been very difficult," she said. "Why not just do it a third time?"

The sight of Andy Murray left alone in a grand slam draw is a familiar sight to British tennis fans, but Watson said it was up to the players to improve. "I think British tennis is good and it's going to come up; we just need to keep supporting the ­players and the players need to work hard," she said.

"You're not just going to be a good player and do whatever you want; you're going to have to make sacrifices and train hard. You're going to have to put in the time."

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