Baltacha had her opportunities in a gruelling match which lasted nearly two hours. She took a 3-1 lead and then played an excellent game at 5-5 to give herself the chance to serve for the first set. However, three unforced errors and a double-fault handed the next game to Bondarenko, who won the tie-break 7-4. The second set, which lasted an hour, was even tighter, but the Ukrainian won the tie-break again, by the same margin.
Although Venus and Serena Williams have withdrawn, citing injury, an exceptional field will be contesting the $1m (£570,000) prize-money in Dubai. Amélie Mauresmo, who continued her run of success following her Australian Open triumph, by beating Kim Clijsters to win in Antwerp on Sunday, is a late entry for a tournament which now features five of the world's top 10 players.
Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin-Hardenne are those most likely to challenge Mauresmo, while interest today will centre on Martina Hingis, who continues her comeback with a first-round match against Sania Mirza, the promising young Indian player.
In Rotterdam, yesterday, Greg Rusedski had a successful start to the ABN AMRO tournament, winning his first-round match against the Czech player, Robin Vik, 6-3, 7-5.Reuse content