Elena's tears over big Wimbledon chance
PUBLISHED: 14:22 11 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:20 03 March 2010
TENNIS: ELENA Baltacha, daughter of former Ipswich Town defender Sergei, has this week returned to Suffolk to take part in the LTA Ladies $25,000 tournament at the Bath Road tennis courts in Felixstowe.
ELENA Baltacha, daughter of former Ipswich Town defender Sergei, has this week returned to Suffolk to take part in the LTA Ladies $25,000 tournament at the Bath Road tennis courts in Felixstowe.
The 17-year-old, who now lives in Middlesex, has come straight from Wimbledon, where she reached the
semi-finals of the girls' competition as well as making a famous appearance on the legendary Centre Court in the first round of the ladies' tournament.
"We only found out we were going to be on Centre Court half an hour beforehand," said Baltacha. "When they told me, I just burst into tears! The umpire thought I wasn't happy about it, but I was just so excited."
Unfortunately, the wild card entrant lost in straight sets to Nathalie Dechy of France in front of a noisy crowd, but after going down 6-1 in the first set she fought bravely in the second, before losing 7-5.
"I was really nervous in the first set," she said. "My legs turned to jelly and I just kept seeing all the people
"Then when I got used to it I got into the game and really enjoyed myself. I suppose I knew it was my chance to show what I could do."
That's exactly what she did, with many pundits now saying she is set for stardom.
But despite all the excitement, Baltacha remains realistic and is delighted to be back in Suffolk for this week's more modest tournament.
"I will always come back here," she said. "I always get brilliant support when I come to play here and this area holds some great memories for me."
She was brought to England from the Ukraine at the tender age of five, when her father became the first Russian football player to be permitted to play abroad.
By six, she was already playing short tennis and her future seemed carved in stone.
The family then moved to Scotland, but they maintain strong links with this area, none more so than with Bob Shelley, who looked after Sergei when he first moved to Ipswich and is now hosting Elena while she competes in this week's tournament.
Bob said: "She is a really up and coming young player. To go out and play so calmly and maturely on the Centre Court at Wimbledon just goes to show how much promise she has."
That promise had regularly been on display over the past 12 months and as well as her Wimbledon appearance she reached the last four at Surbiton, qualified for the main draw in Eastbourne and won a
tournament in Doncaster.
However, despite suggestions that her hectic schedule might have left Baltacha too exhausted to play at Felixstowe this week, she arrived on Monday raring to go.