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Battling Baltacha getting closer to the big guns


By Alexandra Willis

in Indian Wells

13 March 2011

Elena Baltacha may not have been able to pull off another match point-saving miracle against the No.13 seed Flavia Pennetta in their second round encounter at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, but the British No.1 feels that her performance, which saw her come within touching distance of an upset, is further proof that she is going in the right direction.

“The positive is I’m getting closer and closer every time,” Baltacha said. “The last two tournaments that I’ve played, I came within, again, the margins were just so small. Against Peng, I had opportunities to go 5-3 in the 3rd, Dulgheru, had god knows how many break points, I’m getting closer all the time. It’s a shame, it’s disappointing, but for me that’s the most important thing, I’m not losing 1 and 1, I’m with a sniff, that’s the most exciting thing for me moving forward.”

Elena Baltacha at the Australian Open 2011

The 27-year-old, who last year defeated Australian Open finalist Na Li to reach the third round in the Palm Springs desert, producing a battling performance to unseat Roberta Vinci in the opening round, saving four match points in her first win over a top 40 player for over a year. And, as the Brit led Pennetta 4-2 in the third set, it looked as though she would add another famous scalp to her Indian Wells assortment.

“Before I went into the match I thought she hasn’t played a match yet, and I think that’s the time to play any seed, either first round, or if you’ve managed to get through a round and they’ve had a bye, that’s when they’re at their most edgiest. She started really well, the first set she played pretty well, and then she dropped a bit for whatever reason, but I actually stepped it up and I think I made it more difficult for her, and the in the third she obviously stepped it up from 4-2.”

Pennetta awoke from her slumber in time to see out the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, but it was a performance of gritty determination from Baltacha, who at one point had the world gesturing to the heavens.

“I’ve put myself in a position where I’ve played more of those kind of players on a regular basis, going into today’s match I was really relaxed about it, because you’ve got nothing to lose, I have played a lot of the top ladies, I knew what to expect, even though I didn’t play Pennetta, I knew what kind of level to expect. I went in very confident in my own ability, because I have been playing very well, and again nothing to lose, so it was a good combination going into the match.”

Having acquitted herself well against Justine Henin in the second round of the Australian Open, today’s performance is another string to Baltacha’s bow and although she has not equalled last year’s third round Indian Wells heroics, will head into Miami feel another stride has been taken.

It’s nice that I’ve won a round here and had a great performance, that was the key thing going into Miami for me.”

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