British star Laura Robson insisted she enjoyed being back on court after returning to action in the Budgen Motors World Tennis Tour W60 Shrewsbury tournament.
Robson, 25, playing in her first event since hip surgery last July, won her opening qualifying round match at The Shrewsbury Club but was then beaten in the second later in the day – however, she will still feature in today’s main draw as a lucky loser.
Handed a wild card to feature in the qualifying rounds of the $60,000 event, Robson initially faced Jessica Pieri, with her Italian opponent retiring through injury just over half an hour into their contest with Robson leading 6-1, 1-0.
That set up a second qualifying round clash against Jessika Ponchet, with the French player emerging a 6-2, 7-6 winner.
“I said last week all I wanted to come out of this week being on court was just to enjoy it and I felt like I did,” said Robson, once ranked as high as 27 in the world.
“I definitely think I can be better and play better and improve as I play with every match, but I enjoyed it out there and I think I competed pretty well for someone who’s been away for however many months it is. I enjoyed it, both matches, even the one that I lost.”
She added: “I’m a bit tired right now. I didn’t know how I was going to feel. It doesn’t matter how many practice matches you play. It’s not really the same as being back on court and the intensity is always going to be a bit different, so to get through a match and a half today is pretty decent.”
Robson’s comeback attracted a good crowd for the opening day’s action on The Shrewsbury Club’s indoor courts: “I’m not sure how many people I thought might come out and watch,” she said. “But the balcony’s been absolutely packed today, not just for my match but for all of them, so it’s great that everyone’s so supportive.”
Six British players will feature in today’s main draw – with Robson, who will face Kathinka Von Deichmann, from Liechtenstein, drawn as the lucky loser from the players beaten in the second qualifying round after a spot became available following the withdrawal of British Fed Cup star Katie Swan owing to illness. Heather Watson has also withdrawn from the event for the same reason.
Maia Lumsden, winner of the $25,000 tournament at The Shrewsbury Club in November, will take on Italian Anastasia Grymalska in the first round while Freya Christie has been drawn against German star Sabine Lisicki, who was beaten in the 2013 singles final at Wimbledon.
Jodie Anna Burrage, having progressed from the qualifying rounds, Francesca Jones and Naomi Broady – ranked 76 in the world in 2016 – will also carry British hopes.
Belgian ace Yanina Wickmayer, a former US Open semi-finalist once ranked as high as 12 in the world, is this week’s No. 1 seed and will take on Dutch player Lesley Kerkhove, runner-up at The Shrewsbury Club in 2017, in round one.
Today’s action starts at 10am, with admission free for spectators.