Beaten Baltacha rounds on home critics

Briton urges detractors to 'look at the bigger picture' after straight-sets defeat

British tennis is not in a remotely sorry state, asserted Elena Baltacha yesterday. If her second-round defeat had not just ended all patriotic interest in anyone not called Andy Murray her words might have carried more conviction. The truth is that you don't need much more than the staying power of a mayfly to be the last remaining Brit in the women's singles at Wimbledon these days, although that was at least a distinction that Baltacha fleetingly enjoyed, before she was outclassed by Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, 7-5, 6-1.

Belgians used to be all the rage in women's tennis but 23-year-old Flipkens has never before reached the third round of a Grand Slam event, hence her manifest delight at the end of this match. She kissed the Court Four turf and waved gaily to the crowd who responded cheerfully, despite their disappointment in Baltacha's performance. The 25-year-old former British No 1 had played and beaten Flipkens twice before this encounter, and might reasonably have anticipated an appearance in the third round, equalling her achievement here in 2002.

Alas for her many supporters, it was not to be. She started the match splendidly, breaking the Belgian's second service game and then holding to lead 3-1, but Flipkens, wearing a jaunty cap and sunglasses, was quickly on level terms, breaking back to make it 3-3. Both players held serve thereafter, but Flipkens increasingly looked the more confident, and indeed the more versatile, varying her shots and even doing the odd bit of serve-volleying, which generally seems to have disappeared from these parts about as emphatically as the woolly mammoth. Still, the first set was tight, and there was no reason to think that Baltacha, who so spiritedly came from a set down to beat the seeded Alona Bondarenko in the first round, would not make a match of it.

Surprisingly, she hardly got a foothold at all in the second set. Dorothy Parker once said that men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses, but nor did Baltacha, at least not with any success, her passing shots flying either long or wide when Flipkens approached the net.

Up in what passes for the bleachers on Court Four, one middle-aged matron observed to another, through mouthfuls of an avocado salad sandwich, that all the fight seemed to have gone out of the Scot, yet that wasn't the problem. She kept slapping her thigh like a principal boy and refused to give up, but while the spirit was willing, the forehand was weak. She made far too many unforced errors, and when she saved three match points at 0-5 down, to win the game and at least trouble the scoreboard operators, her show of defiance was way too little, way too late. "It's a big ask," remarked one of the matrons, as Baltacha bounced up and down preparing to receive serve at 5-7, 1-5. Gargantuan was more like it.

Baltacha is a bright, spirited and likeable woman, who has overcome some horrible health problems to reach her current world ranking of 106, which is higher than it has ever been. Afterwards, while acknowledging that she should have done much better, she was engagingly positive, insisting that her tennis is progressing in terms of two steps forward and one step back. And she rejected the suggestion from a cynical pressman – and endorsed, incidentally, by Murray – that the British game in general is something of a dog's dinner.

"I think for a lot of people, they think that everything revolves around Wimbledon," she said, "[but] if nothing happens at Wimbledon then it's not like, you know, the end of the world. We play 30 to 35 other tournaments. And if you look at how the girls have been performing through the year, you'll see there are four or five of us who are fighting for the top 100 spot, who are not far away. You've got to look at the bigger picture. You've got to see what we've achieved. We have done far better than we have in any of the other years." Which is true, but everything's relative, and Pedigree Chum instead of Asda own-brand is still a dog's dinner.

Suggested Topics
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
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.

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
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments