Laura Robson is optimistic her bad run of luck is finally over. The 21-year-old is still working her way back up the rankings after a serious wrist injury took her off the tour for 17 months. Since her return in Eastbourne she was able to play just four tour-level tournaments in 2015. She cut her season short after the US Open due to recurring wrist pain and last week it was reported that she plans to skip the Australian Open in January, which she could have entered using a protected ranking.
Despite all that, Robson looked relaxed and fit at the Maria Sharapova & Friends, presented by Porsche exhibition event this weekend at UCLA. Robson paired up with Andy Roddick for a mixed doubles match against Madison Keys and Mardy Fish on Saturday and then took on Sharapova and Kei Nishikori with Jack Sock on Sunday.
It was the first time since the US Open that Robson - former British No.1, junior Wimbledon champion at 14-years-old, with two fourth round runs at the majors before she was 20 - played in a non-practice setting and she more than held her own. "It's fun for me to get out of Florida for a weekend and come play and have a partner like Roddick and Jack Sock, it's just different."
Robson sat down with WTA Insider to talk about everything from her embarrassing love of Justin Bieber's Christmas album to her current injury status - spoiler alert: she's pain free and able to hit full out - the frustrating rehabilitation process, and when we can expect to see her back on the WTA tour.
And if there are any concerns that her competitive spirit might be rusty, don't worry. She's currently engaged in a tough battle for the Spirit of Christmas on her Florida street.
WTA Insider: First off, how are you feeling and what are you looking forward to in 2016?
Robson: "I'm very happy with the progress that's been made. After the US Open I obviously hurt my wrist a little bit again. Not in a serious way at all. There was just some leftover scar tissue that wasn't healing. I just had to get that taken care of. I would have loved to have played another couple of tournaments at the end of the year but I didn't want to rush into it again and I didn't want to come back and take six weeks off and so on. So we decided to just shut it down and get the proper rest and proper rehab and I started hitting again just over a month ago. So I've been in Florida for a good while already, hitting a lot, hitting full."
WTA Insider: News came out last week that you've decided to skip the Australian Open. Can you talk me through that decision?
Robson: "That was more of a protected ranking decision. I would have loved to have played. I obviously wanted to be there just as everyone else does. It's my favorite place to start the year off.
"I get two Slams with my protected [ranking]. One I used in New York. I figured I'd get as many matches behind me as possible and use the second one in Paris [for the French Open]. I could have asked for a wildcard but at this point I think it's better for me to play [ITF] $25Ks, $50Ks, everything. Get as many matches as I can in, get my ranking up to where I can get into tournaments by myself and not worry about asking for wildcards and using my protected. I think I have seven tournaments left including one Slam so there's plenty of time."
WTA Insider: Do you know where you plan to use your remaining protected ranking entries?
Robson: "I know what I want to play, my coach knows what I want to play, but I feel like everyone else has been guessing a little bit and writing about it already. It feels a little frustrating for me because I don't want to correct it every time. I initially planned to start a couple of weeks before Indian Wells with the protected [ranking] again and then play that, play through the clay season, and my protected will run out in Eastbourne. I would have to use it all before then. But I haven't actually said which tournaments."
WTA Insider: What have been the toughest moments of being off tour?
Robson: "The hardest part was from a couple of weeks before the US Open when I started feeling pain again. That really sucked. It was pain where it was going on and off, and on and off, and I didn't know what it was and I didn't tell anyone about it for a while because I didn't want to go through that whole process again. So after New York when it was more on than off I went and saw my surgeon again and fixed it all up. But it was a tough few weeks there. Being in the brace again was just awful.
"It's definitely been a long process. When everyone else says oh I've been injured I'm like no, I think I have you there.
"It's been a long process and it's still not over. I have a ranking again which is nice. But still a lot of work to put in. It's going to be a long way back. But if I didn't want to do it I would have quit a long time ago."
WTA Insider: How much have you been keeping tabs as to what's happening on tour?
Robson: "The first time when I was injured I didn't watch any tennis because it was just depressing. Especially when I didn't have a diagnosis - this was after the Australian Open last year - I didn't care about any results or anything and I didn't care about watching. But once I started my rehab process and started hitting again, yeah. I like tennis and I was interested in results and who's playing. It's been tough to watch everyone get better and improve and play matches, but I'm obviously happy for the people that are doing well and hopefully I'll be back there."
WTA Insider: I know you to be a rabid consumer of pop culture. You're always listening to music or watching the latest TV shows. So what's Laura Robson been up to these days?
Robson: "I know you're going to judge me but I have been listening to Justin Bieber's Christmas album and Jessie Decker's Christmas album. She's got a good looking husband, but who knew she had that sort of festive personality in her? I really enjoy that Christmas album. I just finished Jessica Jones, which was intense.
"Recently, I didn't know that everyone the day after Thanksgiving goes in on the Christmas lights. I live on a street where everyone is retired. I'm the youngest person by about 60 years. I woke the day after Thanksgiving and all of a sudden there were inflatable snowmen, everything. So then the competitive nature kicked in.
"I've been to Walmart eight times. I have about 2,000 lights outside the house right now. I've got these icicles that you can control with an app on your phone. And then they keep adding more to their house, so I keep adding more to my house. You find entertainment everywhere in Florida."
WTA Insider: Anyone who follows you on social media knows you're a big fan of the undefeated Carolina Panthers. I know you're not a bandwagon fan, but can you explain how you became such a big fan?
Robson: "Cam Newton used to train at IMG and he was there maybe five years ago between Indian Wells and Miami and I was there. I was watching him work out and I've never seen anyone that athletic before. You're watching him in the gym and you're like this is the ultimate physical specimen. My trainers and I were totally freaking out about it. We started watching his games and then I became an actual Panthers fan rather than just a Cam Newton fan.
"It's a bit embarrassing because he's represented by [IMG agent] Carlos Fleming and I know Carlos. Every time he's like "Yeah, I was telling Cam about you." And I'm like no, don't. Please don't. It's just so awkward."
WTA Insider: Well you must be feeling pretty good about this season.
Robson: "I'm kind of hoping that they lose. I think they'll lose to the Giants but as long as we lose one game before the playoffs I'm good. We're not going to lose to the Bucs. It's going to be to the Giants or the Falcons. We'll see."
Listen to the full interview with WTA Insider in this week's podcast: