Elena Baltacha handed a wild card for Wimbledon

Elena Baltacha

Elena Baltacha - Credit: PA

Ipswich tennis star Elena Baltacha was yesterday handed a lucrative wild card place at Wimbledon and promptly justified it with a morale-boosting win at the Aegon Challenge.

The 29-year-old – who spiralled outside of the top 200 in the world rankings during nine months out of the game recovering from double ankle surgery – beat world No.83 and top seed Misaki Doi 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round at Nottingham.

Victory over the up-and-coming Japanese youngster was a timely shot in the arm following a swift 6-3, 6-0 defeat to New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic in the first round of the French Open last month.

And it gives hope that she can progress to the second round of British tennis’ iconic tournament later this month, for the third successive year, after officials at the All England Club awarded her one of eight wild cards into the main draw.

“I’ve always said that I thought I could come back a better player,” said Baltacha, who considered retiring after last year’s Olympic games in London.

“I’ve added different aspects to my game and I think that showed against an awkward left-handed opponent who slices and runs around the forehand. I had to be crafty to get through.”

The Ipswich Sports Club player, who today faces fellow Brit Emily Webley-Smith in the second round of the $50,000 event, continued: “I feel like a different player, but it’s important I just take each match as it comes.

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“The home crowds have been great this last couple of weeks and I can’t wait for Wimbledon, but you have to just try and treat it like another tournament and focus on the bigger picture.”

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