Elena Baltacha: 'I needed to build my game, get more variety because I'm not the biggest hitter'

Britain's Elena Baltacha starts US Open campaign with renewed belief thanks to more flexible game plan

Flushing Meadows

At 28 Elena Baltacha is hardly a veteran, but nor would you consider that an age at which to reinvent yourself as a player. As the US Open got under way here yesterday, however, she was preparing to unveil her new game on a Grand Slam stage for the first time. Exit Baltacha the baseline ball-cruncher, enter Baltacha the creative shot-maker.

The world No 58, who will meet America's Jamie Hampton in the first round, has enjoyed an Indian summer to her career after breaking into the world's top 100 for the first time less than two years ago. She believes it is never too late to learn. Having transformed her fortunes after teaming up with Nino Severino, a former kick-boxing coach, she has now changed her game style in the belief that she needs a different approach if she is to make further progress.

The match that altered Baltacha's thinking was her defeat to China's Shuai Peng at Wimbledon this summer. There was no shame in losing 7-5 in the final set to the then world No 20, but it confirmed the Briton's fears that she could no longer match the power of many of the game's younger players.

When Baltacha made her Grand Slam tournament debut at Wimbledon 10 years ago she was regarded as a big hitter, but the latest generation of players has taken the power game to new levels. Meanwhile Baltacha has had to modify her service action following back surgery.

"I used to think that I had a big serve," Baltacha said. "My fastest serves were 120mph. Now I'm serving at 108, 110. The girls are stronger and faster, they hit the ball harder.

"After Wimbledon the biggest thing I realised was that I couldn't quite go through Peng. I needed to build my game, to get more variety in it, because I'm not the biggest hitter. I'm not a [Petra] Kvitova or a [Julia] Görges. I won't be able to hurt girls going through them, especially now the girls all hit the ball so hard.

"For me to go to the next level, my game has to change. I realised after Wimbledon that it had only got me so far and I needed something different in my game. Now I'm using the slice much more, messing up the rhythm. I've been looking at my serve a lot – when to throw in the kickers and trying to disguise the serve as well.

"I'm not saying that I'm going to completely change my game, that I'm chipping and coming in and all that, but I think I have to adapt, so it's not just bang, bang, bang, bang, because I don't know what else to do. My game is always going to be my game, where I'm trying to be aggressive, but at the same time I'll try to mix it up."

The change was not easy at first, but by the time Baltacha arrived in Dallas last week she was playing with renewed confidence. She dropped only three games in beating the Czech Republic's Barbora Zahlavova Strycova before recording one of the best wins of her career against Görges, the world No 21. She eventually lost to France's Aravane Rezai in the quarter-finals.

"Last week was the first week that I felt really comfortable," Baltacha said. "In my win against Strycova I felt like I was in control the whole time, like I was two shots ahead of her. I've never felt like that before. To me, that was really exciting."

The victory over Görges, one of the game's emerging talents, also showed the value of playing a more varied style. "Sometimes when you play a hard hitter, they want the ball to come hard to them," Baltacha said. "When you throw in a kicker they have to generate their own pace, I found that myself. I preferred playing players who had pace whereas if someone is spinning you this way and chipping you that way, it's more difficult."

Baltacha has talked in the past about retiring next year, but with her continuing success she is not so sure. "I've given myself a target to get to the Olympics, but it all depends on how I'm feeling," she said. "If I feel like I'm improving then I'll carry on. There's no doubt. And if I still love it then I'll keep doing it."

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
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.

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence