Baltacha win breathes life into British game

Elena Baltacha and Jane O'Donoghue banked stirring first-round wins over high-ranking opponents yesterday to maintain the mini-renaissance in the British women's game.

Elena Baltacha and Jane O'Donoghue banked stirring first-round wins over high-ranking opponents yesterday to maintain the mini-renaissance in the British women's game.

Baltacha, ranked at No 331 in the world, beat Spain's Marta Marrero, ranked at No 61, in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3. O'Donoghue, ranked No 243, came from a set behind to outfight America's Lindsay Lee-Waters, the world No 89, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Four British women will be playing in the second round here following first-round successes for Anne Keothavong and Emily Webley-Smith on Monday. Not since 1989 have so many home players cleared the first hurdle in the women's singles.

Perhaps Baltacha should consider changing her nickname from Bally to Lake. She wept enough tears to fill one after yesterday's success.

"My God, I was so overwhelmed to be back, to be playing again," she said by way of explanation. The flood was understandable given the mental and physical torment the Ukraine-born 20-year-old has endured over the past two years due to a liver complaint.

Having made her senior Wimbledon debut in 2001, losing on Centre Court to Nathalie Dechy, she reached the third round in 2002 by shocking the No 10 seed, Amanda Coetzer. Before this week, that was the last win by a British woman here.

After the championships two years ago, however, just at the stage when she seemed destined for a reign as the British No 1, Baltacha's health problem worsened and her ranking plummeted below 300. It was only in January this year that her doctors cleared her to resume full-time tennis. Even now she has been told not to play for more than three consecutive weeks before taking time off to recuperate. "My coach says I'm a walking miracle," Baltacha said yesterday. "It's not easy, what I've been through. These two years have been a nightmare. But I'm just so, so happy to be back. I've realised how much I actually love tennis. I see things in a completely different way now."

Contrary to the assured manner of her win, which was based on her trademark big serve and booming groundstrokes, Baltacha said she had felt so nervous beforehand that "it felt like my arms weren't attached to my body and my legs were so heavy they weren't quite moving". Goodness knows how she might perform if she felt in one piece.

She will need to be firing on all cylinders to reach the third round. As she was reminded in her post-match press conference, her next opponent would be coming from the winner of Jennifer Capriati v Claudine Schaul. "I can't wait," Baltacha said. "[Capriati's] such a great player. I really admire her. I'm just really looking forward to it. There's no pressure whatsoever on me. I'm just going to go out there and give it a go, just love it and enjoy it and battle."

O'Donoghue, a 21-year-old from Wigan, followed Baltacha's example by crying after her own win. "It's very emotional for all of us [British players] to play in Wimbledon," she said. "It's the ultimate tournament, especially being British, and winning here. I was so pumped to win the match. We're crying happy, we're happy, not sad. I've just got to get out there now and look forward to my next match. I've got nothing to lose."

Keothavong and Webley-Smith were taking the same approach yesterday as they prepared for their second-round tasks, scheduled for today. Keothavong, the British No 1 and world No 188, faces an enormous challenge in the form of the Russian No 13 seed, Maria Sharapova.

Webley-Smith, ranked No 349, faces America's Amy Frazier, the world No 36. "I'm in with a good chance of competing," said Webley-Smith, who is only just returning to fitness after breaking her ankle two years ago.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits