Elena Baltacha is back in love with tennis following injury break

Elena Baltacha

Elena Baltacha - Credit: PA

IPSWICH tennis star Elena Baltacha is back in love with the game following an injury break – and she believes she can come back better than ever.

The 29-year-old’s last competitive appearance was her second round defeat to Ana Ivanovic at the Olympic Games last summer. She soon underwent double ankle surgery and spent a period of soul-searching during her rehabilitation.

At one stage she considered whether it was time to focus on coaching and leave it to emerging young talent like Laura Robson and Heather Watson.

However, time away from the court has reignited her competitive passion and she believes that – given the right set of circumstances – she can eventually get back to the form which saw her reach No.49 in the world rankings in 2010.

“I am so fired up,” said Baltacha, who is scheduled to make her return at a series of American clay court events at the start of next month. “I’ve really missed that one-on-one, gladiatorial, who can survive the longest, aspect of competitive tennis. That feeling of winning is something that you just can’t replace.

“If I’d lost that feeling I would have walked away – and at one stage I thought I was – but a break has definitely brought my love of the game back.”

Baltacha has seen her world ranking slide to around 200 during her absence, meaning she will have to play as a qualifier at most events. She will be able to play on a protected ranking of 103 – the level she was at before injury – at eight events of her choosing though.

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“This year is all about making my way back up towards the top 100 and then we’ll see where we go from there,” she said.

“Hopefully I’ve got another three or four years in me. Can I get back to the level I was at before? You never know what’s around the corner, but I believe I can.

“Time away has allowed me to look at my game with fresh eyes and I’m confident I can make my game even better because of that.

“One of my goals is to make it to the second week of a Grand Slam. That last game at the Olympics wasn’t how I wanted to leave the game. I’ve still got unfinished business.”

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