Baltacha on course to face title holder Clijsters after first hurdle


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Twelve months after losing here to Justine Henin in what proved to be the last victory of the former world No 1's career, Elena Baltacha is hoping to meet another Belgian in the second round of the Australian Open next week. The 28-year-old Briton, ranked No 53 in the world, has been drawn to play France's Stéphanie Foretz Gacon in the first round, with a match against Kim Clijsters the likely reward.

Clijsters is the defending champion, though the 28-year-old had fitness problems in the latter half of last year and suffered another injury in Brisbane last week. "We'll see how both of us go in the first round but obviously it would be great to play Kim," Baltacha said. "I've got a good record of winning matches in Grand Slams over the last couple of years and I'd like to keep that up, so all I'm thinking about at the moment is that first-round match.

"I won't take her [Foretz Gacon] for granted, but it's definitely a match I think I can win."

Britain has three women who earned places in the main draw thanks to their world ranking. Anne Keothavong also has a winnable first-round match against Mona Barthel, the world No 64. Heather Watson (below), however, has been given a difficult task against Victoria Azarenka, from Belarus. The world No 3 has started the year in good form, winning the title in Sydney yesterday against China's Li Na, last year's beaten finalist here.

A fourth Briton, Laura Robson, moved to within one victory of a place in the main draw when she beat Italy's Anna Floris 6-3, 6-4 in the second round of qualifying. Robson was due to meet Olga Savchuk, of Ukraine, in today's final round.