Elena Baltacha aiming to make the second week at Australian Open
Elena Baltacha confessed to being a bit of a wild child on court as a youngster, her game being all about raw power and aggression.
Her lack of creativity on court hindered her but while she has still to make it past the third round of a Grand Slam, she has made giant strides in the previous two years.
Baltacha’s power was up there with the best as an up and coming player in her teens and early twenties but she lacked in other areas of her game.
However, times are changing and the Ipswich-based 28-year-old is aiming to rip up the history books, starting at the Australian Open, and implement a new multi-dimensional and more methodical game.
The 2011 Aegon Tennis Challenge champion speaks with a determination when discussing her aim of reaching the second week of a Grand Slam and an assured confidence when talking about the improvements in her game which has seen her ranked in the world top 50 for the last two years.
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“When I was a junior I was so wild and I wanted to be aggressive all the time and did not really understand control. I just wanted to smack the ball everywhere,” revealed Kiev-born Baltacha.
“Before, it was all bang, bang, bang and going for power. To reach that next level, I have had to find different ways of beating my opponent.
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“I have always been known as being a one-dimensional player and I would reach a certain stage and beat a certain opponent, but not be able to beat others.”
Baltacha’s preparation for Australia has been meticulous and in the last week before jetting off Down Under, she put in several vital hours with former Spanish professional, Danny Dios, a player flown over especially from the Mediterranean by coach, Nino Severino.
Dios’ arrival was all part of the Baltacha/Severino masterplan which has seen the duo work on a number of mental and physical aspects of her game.
“I could not have asked for any better preparation, it’s been amazing and my pre-season has been injury-free which has allowed me to do everything on the court and in the gym, every single week,” she explained.
“I am in the best physical shape of my career and I have also worked hard on my nutrition and my game.
“I am more aware of how I am going to hurt my opponent by mucking them about and that has been lacking before. I have developed my serve, which I changed a year or so ago, and I am more tactically aware now, getting high balls in, sneaking into positions and winning points that way.
“It is exciting to think that I feel this good and have worked this hard and, given what has happened in the last two years, I am looking to push on.”
The draw for the Australian Open takes place in two weeks and Baltacha, who also hopes to be competing in next year’s Olympics, hopes that the gods will smile on her when the draw is made next month.
“I would love to make a second week of a slam and while really you need the luck of the draw and to be playing amazing tennis, the way I am playing, I feel I can achieve that,” said Baltacha.
“ I love the conditions in Australia, how the balls fly about and I have never minded the heat.
“I am in the best condition ever and I will be ready to go when the tournament begins.”