Battling Elena flies British flag
TENNIS: Battling teenager Elena Baltacha prevented British women's tennis from hitting rock bottom.Only Baltacha's hard-fought 6-4 6-4 victory over 28-year-old Venezuelan Maria Vento-Kabchi prevented Britain from failing to have a representative in the second round of the women's singles at Wimbledon for the first time in the history of the championships.
Battling teenager Elena Baltacha prevented British women's tennis from hitting rock bottom.
Only Baltacha's hard-fought 6-4 6-4 victory over 28-year-old Venezuelan Maria Vento-Kabchi prevented Britain from failing to have a representative in the second round of the women's singles at Wimbledon for the first time in the history of the championships.
But it was a close call for Baltacha, the daughter of former Ipswich Town star Sergei Baltacha.
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The 18-year-old, ranked 295 in the world, needed to show tremendous fighting spirit against a player 116 places above her in the charts.
But Baltacha, raised in Scotland after Sergei's transfer from Portman Road to St Johnstone, prevented Britain's female contingent from becoming a far from magnificent seven.
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Baltacha finally gave the British fans on Court 18 something to cheer as she earned a second round date with South Africa's Amanda Coetzer tomorrow while fellow 18-year-old Anne Keothavong fought valiantly before eventually going down 6-3 7-6 (7-5) to world 99 Virginie Razzano of France, a player ranked 191 places above her.
"I just kept fighting and trying to get the win," said Baltacha, who joked her victory "saved the day".
She added: "I was so nervous but I just kept on fighting and managed to get a win.
"I did not play my best tennis but a win's a win. In the first set I was all over the place. I really had to concentrate hard.
"I don't think she had a great game today. I served big on the important points and that got me out of jail."
The Kiev-born Baltacha goes into tomorrow's second round carrying the hopes of a nation but does not intend to let the pressure get to her.
"I'm not trying to think about that," she said. "I'm loving it and looking forward to my next match. I'll be giving it 100 per cent.
"It's going to be tough, that's for sure, but I've got nothing to lose. I will be well up for it."
Baltacha had to battle back after having her serve broken in both sets.
In the first she delivered a top-speed serve of 114mph, which produced an ace, and after dropping her serve immediately broke back before riding her luck to take the set when a return from Vento-Kabchi hit the tape and hovered tantalisingly before dropping back on the Venezuelan's side of the net.
She went 4-2 down in the second set but broke back to level and then repeated the feat to seal victory.
Jane O'Donoghue, Rachel Viollet and Hannah Collin joined Britain's top-two ranked players Julie Pullin and Lucie Ahl in crashing out.
O'Donoghue, the 19-year-old world-ranked 344, slipped to a predictable 6-1 6-1 defeat at the hands of defending champion Venus Williams.