Elena Baltacha relishing being an old head in US Open qualifying

Elena Baltacha

Elena Baltacha - Credit: Archant

Ipswich tennis star Elena Baltacha knows there is still much hard work ahead if she is to make the main draw of the US Open.

In her comeback year after a long-term injury, Baltacha used a protected ranking to go straight into the main draw for the French Open and was handed a wildcard entry to Wimbledon.

The former British No.1 – who celebrated her 30th birthday upon arrival in New York last Wednesday – has been forced to enter qualifying on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows though, battling with the sport’s next generation of young stars for a spot at the main event next week.

On Tuesday she beat Melanie Oudin in three sets 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 – no mean feat considering the 21-year-old American had home support and was previously ranked No.2 in the world junior rankings.

Two more victories are still required though, with 25-year-old Ukrainian Olga Savchuk in the way today and top young duo Michelle Larcher de Brito (Portugal) or Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) – 20 and 19 years old respectively – potential third qualifying round opponents.

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“Facing Melanie in the first match was a really tough draw, so it was great to beat her on one of the show courts with the crowd on her side,” said Baltacha. “It was a big win because she won the AEGON Classic in Birmingham last year, was seeded in qualifying and has been tipped for big things.

“It’s not going to get any easier because there are plenty of good young players left in qualifying. I look around and I don’t recognise many of the girls out here now.

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“It really takes me back to when I was their age and trying to make my way into Grand Slam main draws through qualifying. That’s an exciting time in a player’s career, but there’s also that naivety too.

“I’ve got to take advantage of that and use my experience when I play these younger players.

“Reaching the main draw is the goal but I know I’ve got to win another two tough matches for that to happen.”

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