Baltacha reflects on positives after Australian Open exit

IPSWICH tennis star Elena Baltacha insisted she felt “great” as she assessed the positives from her battling display against Justine Henin at the Australian Open today.

Although she was beaten 6-1 6-3, the scoreline did not do Baltacha’s display justice as she held her own for large parts of the 61-minute contest against the Belgian on Rod Laver Arena.

And the British number one was in bullish mood afterwards.

She said: “I feel great. I knew going into the match it was going to be very difficult and it would have to be an unbelievable performance (to win).

“But it was quite interesting actually. I learnt so much about the match, the positives of what I’ve improved in my game from last year when playing a top player and the things I have to get better at.”

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The occasion seemed to get to the Scot early on as she was broken in the opening game and then struggled to keep pace with the seven-time major winner, who secured two more breaks to claim the opening set in just 27 minutes.

But the second was much better, Baltacha shrugging off her nerves to match Henin stroke for stroke.

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Although Henin was untroubled on serve she was not making much of an impression on the Baltacha delivery either, the 27-year-old levelling at 3-3 with a delightful lob as her opponent closed in on the net.

Baltacha certainly did not seem to be daunted by facing one of the tournament favourites, one pass being accompanied by a fist-pump and a glare in Henin’s direction.

But just when it seemed Baltacha had settled into the occasion, Henin struck.

A series of powerful returns set up three break points and although Baltacha saved the first two, Henin took the third with a forehand cross-court winner.

Uncharacteristically, Henin almost let Baltacha off the hook, some sloppy groundstrokes gifting the world number 55 two break points which she was unable to convert, and an ace from the Belgian ended the contest and sealed her place in the third round.

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