Video: Baltacha hails ‘most satisfying win’

BRITISH number one Elena Baltacha has described her first round win in the French Open as the most satisfying of her career.

The 27-year-old has never been a fan of clay-court tennis but made light of her first match at Roland Garros, beating American qualifier Sloane Stephens in straight sets.

After an improved pre-season, led by her coach Nino Severino, the Ipswich tennis star is now reaping the benefits.

“I’ve got to say that was the most satisfying win I think of my whole career. Until last year, when I was in the main draw, for nine years I’ve been turning up here to Paris and been going home the same night because I’ve been losing first round quallies every year.

“This year I’m so happy I listened to my coach Nino, because he was trying to persuade me to have a proper clay season for the last couple of years, and I actually always kind of resisted. I’m so happy that I gave in,” Baltacha joked.

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Taking just 83 minutes to book her place in the second round, Baltacha admitted she sought advice from fellow pros before facing the little-known Stephens.

She explained: “I knew that I would have to serve pretty well. Even though I didn’t really know that much about Sloane, I asked a couple of players and they told me that I had to keep forcing her to kind of make errors. She’s young, and sometimes she can switch off. I think that’s where I did a really good job. When she did give me a sniff, I really took my opportunity and remained really strong and made her hit a lot of balls.”

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And following 19-year-old Heather Watson’s win, British ladies tennis is celebrating having two women in the second round of the French Open for the first time in almost 20 years.

Baltacha, who faces another American Vania King in the next round, knows she now has a fight on to keep hold of her British number one status.

She said: “The fight is on for number one now, so it’s great. I’m really happy for Heather. She’s 19, she’s very talented, she’s got a good game. Heather is the new kid on the block. I’m going to try and keep her down as long as I can.”

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