Baltacha helps stricken opponent after roaring into the second round


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The Independent Online

Twenty-four hours after an opponent's injury helped Laura Robson win her first match at the US Open, another retirement sent a second British player, Elena Baltacha, through to the second round. In dramatic scenes at the end of the match, the British No 1 was among those who rushed to help her opponent, Jamie Hampton, after the American collapsed when trailing in the final set.

Baltacha, who will play the 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round, had recovered well after a slow start when Hampton started to suffer from cramp in her right leg at the beginning of the decider. She received treatment from a trainer when trailing 3-1, but twice fell to the ground.

With Baltacha leading 2-6, 6-2, 5-1, Hampton collapsed again at the back of the court and this time was unable to get up. The umpire ran over to help and quickly called for assistance. Baltacha herself applied ice bags to Hampton's leg as the American, who is a friend of hers, lay on the floor. It was several minutes before she was able to sit up before being helped from the court.

Baltacha said later: "I remember when I went through that in Doha a couple of years ago when you start with a calf cramp and then it works its way up. Before you know it, it's reaching your abdominal area. Then, before you know it, it's going into a full body cramp.

"She couldn't even get up. She was trying and couldn't. Then the doctor ran out, so I went over and tried to help with ice packs. I've seen her just now. She's walking around and it's good that she's fine. The trainer is walking round with her to make sure, because I think full-body cramps are dangerous."

Baltacha, who has now won her first-round match at the last five Grand Slam tournaments, climbed to No 58 in the world rankings after her run to the quarter-finals in Dallas last week and in the coming weeks will have a good chance to beat her highest-ever position at No 49.

Anne Keothavong, who was playing South Africa's Chanelle Scheepers in a later match, was attempting to become the third Briton to reach the second round. It is 20 years since two British women (Jo Durie and Sara Gomer) made the second round and 24 years since three or more did so, Durie, Gomer, Annabel Croft and Liz Hobbs having won their opening matches in 1987.

Andy Murray, the lone Briton in the men's singles, will finally make his bow here this afternoon on day three of the tournament. If the delay has been frustrating, it should not put the 24-year-old Scot at any material disadvantage. With the semi-finals and final played on successive days at the end of the tournament, none of the men – weather permitting – should have to play two days in a row until the closing weekend.

Somdev Devvarman, Murray's first opponent, is a sound performer who has had the best year of his career, but the 26-year-old Indian has never gone beyond the second round of a Grand Slam event and has won only one match in his last three tournaments.

While Murray himself will be taking nothing for granted, the greater challenges are likely to come next week. The world No 4 is one of the most consistent performers – his third-round defeat to Stanislas Wawrinka here 12 months ago was the only occasion since the 2008 French Open when he has failed to make the second week of a Grand Slam tournament – but needs to convince the doubters that he has it in him to make the final breakthrough.

He has reached three Grand Slam finals but lost in straight sets on each occasion – to Roger Federer here in 2008 and at the Australian Open in 2010 and to Novak Djokovic in Melbourne this year.

Patrick McEnroe, General Manager for Player Development at the US Tennis Association, said: "He's struggled in the big matches. In the majors he's basically just frozen. He's frozen up at the big matches. He's obviously played great players. To me it's not so much that he's lost in the Aussie Open final or the US Open final. It's the way he's lost. He's basically just given up in some of those matches. You would hope that if he gets in that position again he would give it everything that he's got."

John McEnroe, Patrick's brother and a fellow commentator on ESPN, believes the US Open offers Murray his best chance of winning his first Grand Slam title. "His best results have been in the majors, which is the good news, because that's where fitness comes into play more," he said. "All the work he's put in should pay off fitness-wise. Then some of it comes down to luck and the draw. I would hope that he would be hungrier and more desperate than ever to do it."