Baltacha beaten in Wimbledon thriller

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The Independent Online

Elena Baltacha was left to rue a missed opportunity after she went down fighting in her Wimbledon second-round clash with Peng Shuai.

The British number one was edged 4-6 6-2 7-5 by Peng, the 20th seed from China, on Court 18.



Baltacha regained composure in the deciding set after losing her way in the second, playing with authority to dominate Peng, only to then squander a fine opportunity to move 5-3 ahead.



The Ipswich-based 27-year-old, ranked 68th in the world, was erratic at times but magnificent when at her best - feisty, confident and imposing.



Yet her nerve failed her in the closing stages, though Peng - pronounced 'Pong' - proved a formidable and persistent opponent who hunted relentlessly in the final game.



The omens looked good as Baltacha made a strong start, showing variety in the third game in the shape of a drop shot and booming forehand to secure a break point that Peng saved with a superb crosscourt winner.



Danger followed in the fourth when Baltacha was forced to save three break points, with one coming after a rally of dynamic volleys at the net.



Play settled down until the ninth game when Baltacha seized the chance to make the crucial move in the set.



Amassing three break points after outplaying Peng, she capitalised on the first with an inch-perfect forehand to the right corner that left her opponent flailing.



Three set points followed in the 10th as her serve found its mark with clinical efficiency, with Peng finishing an extended rally by hitting long.



Baltacha's impressive form continued into the early stages of the second set as she remained in the driving seat.



Peng was having to work for every point but in the fourth game she was able to strike, capitalising on some weak serving to break.



A lengthy rally in the fifth ended with a sublime angled winner from Peng that was impossible to return and the initiative was slipping away from Baltacha.



It was Peng's turn to dictate play, although she was on the receiving end of two terrible line calls in the eighth game.



The injustices only served to inspire her, however, as she broke the fading Baltacha in the same game with the Briton repeatedly finding the net.



Baltacha exploded back into life in the opening game of the final set, her mind clearly refocused as she out-hit Peng to claim the third of three break points.



Urging herself on, she seemed a different player - only to then collapse from a commanding position on her own serve in the next game with a double fault and shot into the net.



An unpredictable third set continued apace with Baltacha squandering four break points in the third as the tension mounted.



She was more ruthless in the fifth, playing intelligently and with great poise to break once more and regain the initiative.



The opportunity to go 5-3 up vanished in a blink as nerves suddenly ate away at the aggression that had served her so well, with Peng breaking back.



Serving to stay in the match in a marathon 12th game, there was an air of inevitability about the outcome as Baltacha came off worse in a high-quality rally to concede match point.



That was saved, as were two more, but she blasted into the net on a fourth as the door into the third round slammed shut for the Scot.

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