Elena Baltacha back to her best after Australian Open “blip”

Elena Baltacha believes her Fed Cup heroics are proof that her first round defeat at last month’s Australian Open was nothing more than “a blip”.

The Ipswich-based British number one played a talismanic role for her country as Great Britain reached the Fed Cup play-offs with victories against Portugal, Holland, Israel and Austria last week.

Baltacha, along with Anne Keothavong, Laura Robson and Heather Watson will now face one of Argentina, France, Sweden and Switzerland for a place in World Group Two – the second highest Fed Cup group – after winning Pool C of the Europe/Africa zone.

However, the year did not start the way the 28-year-old would have liked as the Kiev-born world number 57 tripped at the first hurdle, losing against Stephanie Foretz Gacon 6–2 6–4.

Baltacha, who jets out to Memphis next Monday for a WTA event, before tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami next month, is at a loss to explain what went wrong Down Under.

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However, she is adamant her impressive comeback in Israel, which saw her win all four of her singles matches, shows she can mix it with the best.

“I think the way I played at the Fed Cup proved that Australia was just a blip and that I am playing really good tennis and I am improving, that is the most important thing,” said Baltacha, daughter of former Ipswich Town defender, Sergei.

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“I did not feel the pressure in Australia as I have been in enough of those situations in the past but it was a really weird day and for whatever reason my reactions were a second slower than they should have been. I had a really good hit before the game and my preparations were exactly the same but the ball was leaving my strings before I could get a feel for it and whatever I tried to do to change things, didn’t work.

“You can’t pick your days but, by practising, you can minimise the chances of them happening so it was really hurtful that it happened to me in Australia.

“But the Fed Cup showed me that I can perform consistently.”

The draw for the World Group Two play-offs is held on Valentine’s Day and Britain find themselves at a stage they have not been at since 1993.

They will face either the Swiss or the French, who will be looking to keep their place in World Group Two, or Argentina (who won the Americas tournament) or Sweden who won Pool B of the Europe/Africa zone.

While the standard will improve, Baltacha is confident the work the British women’s team and coach Judy Murray are doing could give them a win which could potentially pit them in a group with the likes of the Williams sisters and USA, Australia, Belgium and Spain, in 2013.

“The strength of the women’s side is getting better and we have another opportunity to show that at the Fed Cup play-offs,” explained Baltacha.

“We have got a complete team in many ways and before we went out to Israel we knew we could do it, we just had to show it.

“Our preparation was amazing and Judy (Murray) is big on tactics. We also had a guy in who showed us DVD’s of all our opponents and, as a result, that is something I am going to do a lot more of in the future.

“Every player had a big role to play and if we are going to be performing like that in the play-offs, then we have got a good chance.”

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