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.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
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.

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor