Elena - almost back to her grass roots

BRITAIN'S newest tennis sensation Elena Baltacha has been enjoying a trip down memory lane in Ipswich.The 18-year-old blasted her way to the third round at Wimbledon – a far cry from her tournament this week in wet and windy Felixstowe.

By JON TUNNEY

jon.tunney@eveningstar.co.uk

BRITAIN'S newest tennis sensation Elena Baltacha has been enjoying a trip down memory lane in Ipswich.

The 18-year-old blasted her way to the third round at Wimbledon – a far cry from her tournament this week in wet and windy Felixstowe.

But the showery summer weather has allowed Elena plenty of time to visit some old haunts in Ipswich – she spent 18 months in the town while footballer dad, Sergei, was playing at Portman Road.

The former Handford Hall Primary School pupil said: "I've been back to visit my old school, which was brilliant. I don't remember much about it, but it was really nice to see it again.

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"I've managed to do a bit of shopping around Ipswich as well. I really like shopping – it's probably my favourite activity."

Ukraine-born Elena was only five when her dad signed for Ipswich Town in 1989. She arrived without a word of English, but now speaks it with a Scottish lilt after moving north of the border just 18 months later.

Elena used her big serve – the third most powerful in the women's game after the fearsome Williams sisters – to good effect on the grass at Wimbledon.

And she is hopeful it will propel her to victory in a Felixstowe tournament that could turn into a shoot-out for the number one spot in Britain.

Elena closed to just a few spots behind current top-dog Lucy Ahl, an opponent she could meet in the quarter-finals.

She said: "It'll be like coming back to reality. It's a bit different to Wimbledon.

"We're playing on grass, which is my favourite surface. But the grass at Felixstowe is a little bit different to Wimbledon.

"I think it might be a little bit more uneven, but it's the same for both players."

Elena reached the quarter-finals at Felixstowe last year, before losing to Indian, Manisha Malhotra, the opponent she will be playing today – weather permitting.

But this year she brings her Wimbledon experience, as well as something of a media circus.

She said: "I've had a lot more attention since Wimbledon, but it's all part of the job.

"If I'm going to be any good, I'll just have to get used to it."

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