Foul-mouthed Elena says sorry

ELENA Baltacha, the new British No.3 after reaching the third round of Wimbledon two weeks ago, was embroiled in controversy at the LTA Ladies' $25,000 tournament in Felixstowe when she swore at opponent Lucie Ahl.

ELENA Baltacha, the new British No. 3 after reaching the third round of Wimbledon two weeks ago, was embroiled in controversy at the LTA Ladies' $25,000 tournament in Felixstowe yesterday evening when she swore at opponent Lucie Ahl.

Baltacha, who reached the last four here after battling past the second seed 5-7 7-6 6-1 and is now just two matches away from the first title of her professional career, swore at Ahl when they sat down at the end of the second set.

Referee Sultan Gangji was called on court where Ahl demanded that Baltacha, the daughter of former Ipswich Town defender Sergei, who had been given a code violation for screaming out a four-letter word in the first set, should be punished for her outburst.

Baltacha was provoked by Ahl suggesting to the 18-year-old that her mother Olga, who is originally from the Ukraine, had been coaching her daughter in Russian on several occasions during the match. Gangji took no action.

Baltacha, who later apologised, admitted that she had sworn at Ahl: "Yes, I did say that and it was a mistake. It was spur of the moment and I regret it now, but she was trying to get me defaulted.

"I can understand why it happened. I'm really competitive, she's really competitive and we're both trying hard to win.

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"My mum was just asking me if I wanted another bottle of water. She wasn't coaching me, but that was a stupid thing to do. That was also a mistake."

Baltacha could (and possibly should) have killed the contest inside two sets. She was broken to 30 as she served for the opener, and then lost her delivery two games later when Ahl hit a rasping forehand winner from the baseline that kissed the sideline.

She also served for the second set, failed again, and had to endure the lottery and jangled nerves of a tiebreak. The exchange then followed, adding something of an edge to the entertaining tennis as Baltacha took the decider with breaks in the second and sixth games.

The quarter-final also decided who will be British No. 2 behind Julie Pullin when the new rankings appear on Monday afternoon. Baltacha should overtake Ahl, currently just seven places higher at world No. 192 and defending points from reaching last year's final.

Before lunch, while Ahl had struggled past Italian Alberta Brianti 6-7 7-5 6-1 – she was 0-30 down as she served to stay in the second set and match – Baltacha had a straightforward win over Ireland's Yvonne Doyle, who was playing the second set with a strapped knee after a nasty tumble.

Baltacha plays qualifier Christina Horiatopoulos, of Australia for a place in the final. Horiatopoulos, who had earlier beaten Basildon's Helen Crook, the ninth seed, then knocked-out national champion Hannah Collin 7-5 3-6 6-3.