Elena Baltacha kicks off Team GB tennis – but then announces quit fears

ELENA Baltacha got Great Britain’s tennis players off to a winning start in their Olympic campaign by overpowering Hungary’s Agnes Szavay in the first round of the women’s singles at a sunny Wimbledon.

The 28-year-old was always in control against an opponent who has been plagued by injury problems over the past year as she claimed a 6-3 6-3 win in just over an hour.

The British number four broke serve twice in the first set and, after saving a break point in the opening game of the second, made a decisive move in the eighth game before closing out victory on her first match point.

Baltacha said: “Very good start, delighted with that. I think for a first round match, I’m very happy with how I played. I’m chuffed to be in the second round now.

“I was quite nervous before the match. I think once I put my GB gear on, it relaxed me more because I’ve been looking forward to this for such a long time.”

Szavay does not currently have a world ranking such has been the extent of her back problems and she was simply not strong enough to live with Baltacha’s power from the back of the court.

The world number 102 was also playing far from fully fit, though, with her right shin heavily strapped to relieve the pressure on an ankle problem.

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The Scot plans to take six months off after the Olympics – pre-US Open – to have surgery, definitely on her right ankle and possibly on her left as well.

She said: “They told me at some point I’ll need to have surgery because basically the bone has grown an extra bit of bone.

“It just needs a little extra bit of shaving. They found a loose body in my ankle. I’ve actually got it in my left foot as well, but not as severe.

“I am thinking of having surgery very soon on it. We’re talking about taking six months and having the surgery done.

“It’s not a serious surgery, it’s pretty straightforward. I know that at some point I need to have it done.

“I would maybe ask about having the left one done as well, if there’s a chance the left one would get worse as well. Probably be smarter if I get two done.”

The Scot insists it is not causing her too much discomfort when playing, though.

“It’s manageable, it’s not terrible,” she said.

The earliest return date from surgery would likely be February, and Baltacha feels the lay-off will enable her to dedicate more time to her tennis academy, EBAT, in Ipswich.

And she questioned whether she would have the motivation to return to the court next year.

“If after that I feel I want to come back, I will come back,” she said. “If I feel I enjoy life at home, I really want to give EBAT my full attention, then I might stop.”

First up, though, is a second-round meeting with former world number one Ana Ivanovic.

“I have absolutely nothing to lose,” she said. “She’s the one that is meant to be beating me. It’s a great match to go into because there’s no pressure on me. That way you can really relax and really go for it.”

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