From the Baseline: Thief leaves Baltacha's Olympic hopes looking all washed up

 

It has not been the best of French Opens for Elena Baltacha. Needing to win at least one match to retain her No 1 British ranking (and with it a probable place in this summer's Olympic tournament), the 28-year-old was drawn in the first round against Sam Stosur, the world No 6.

On the evening before her match Baltacha was doing her washing at a launderette – it's not all glamour at the top – when she went outside to take a phone call. When she went returned she found that her purse, which she had left on top of a machine, had been stolen.

"It wasn't the best way to prepare for a match," Baltacha said. "These things happen when you travel, but it did turn out to be a right pain."

Having spent the evening cancelling her credit cards, Baltacha found Stosur too strong the following day. British No 1 for two and a half years, she will be replaced by Anne Keothavong next week, when the rankings will be used to determine the Olympic field.

British women will need wild cards to play as they are outside the world's top 56.

Nadal takes a tanning

No wonder Rafael Nadal has the permanent complexion of a year-round holidaymaker. "I should use sun protection creams, but I can't," the world No 2 revealed after completing a match in scorching sunshine last week. "I can't play with this. I have the impression that afterwards my skin is sticky, and I don't like feeling this, something sticky on my skin. That's awful. If I touch my nose or my face then I have the impression that even my hands are sticky. Even during practice I don't use sun protection cream."

Those with paler skins are naturally more cautious. "I put on factor 30," Andy Murray revealed. "The key is to put it on 20 or 30 minutes before you go out there. If you put it on right beforehand, it supposedly takes a little while to sink in. Sometimes I get burnt on my nose because after points I always wipe my nose or the sweat off my face."

Another vintage performance

Since Amélie Mauresmo's retirement, Michael Llodra has picked up the mantle as the wine expert among French players. At a dinner to celebrate Guy Forget's long reign as Davis Cup captain, Llodra selected a different vintage for every one of his 14 years – a fine wine for a very good year, a moderate bottle for a less successful one and so on.

Rumours that Murray will be choosing different vintages of Irn-Bru for a similar celebration in honour of Leon Smith, Britain's Davis Cup captain, are unconfirmed.

Baker's Tennessee waltz

Brian Baker, who reached the second round here after six years out with injuries, offers hope to club players everywhere. This time last year the 27-year-old American was playing in the Middle Tennessee Tennis League with his father and uncle.

"I lost some games, but I never lost a set," Baker recalled.

Just wild about Adrian

France's Adrian Mannarino is catching Britain's Alex Bogdanovic, who was given a wild card at eight successive Wimbledons and lost in the first round every time. Mannarino received his sixth wild card here this year – and has yet to win a set in the main draw.

p.newman@independent.co.uk

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