True grit as Baltacha fights back in Melbourne

Elena Baltacha's superb run at the Australian Open continued today with a brilliant fightback in Melbourne.

Elena Baltacha's superb run at the Australian Open continued today with a brilliant fightback in Melbourne.

The British number one committed 22 unforced errors as she lost the opening set of her second-round clash with France's Stephanie Cohen-Aloro on court six.

But she produced a typically gritty display to claim the next two sets for the loss of just four games, booking her place in the last 32 with a 2-6 6-3 6-1 victory.

The 21-year-old is the first British woman through to the third round of the Australian Open since Clare Wood in 1991.

Baltacha won three matches in qualifying to earn her place in the main draw, and then fought back from a set down to beat world number 66 Katarina Srebotnik in the first round.

The world number 185 hoped that would earn her a meeting with 1995 champion Mary Pierce on one of the show courts at Melbourne Park, only for Pierce to crash out to compatriot Cohen-Aloro.

With Cohen-Aloro ranked 115th in the world, it was nevertheless a great opportunity to progress to the third round, and she started well by holding her opening serve to love.

A number of unforced errors quickly proved costly however, Baltacha dropping her serve twice in a row and losing the next five games in succession as Cohen-Aloro claimed the opening set.

Baltacha looked like finally being able to catch the flight home she had been forced to change three times last week.

But the second set was a vast improvement as the mistakes were replaced with more of the winners which peppered her victory over Srebotnik on Monday.

After receiving a warning from the umpire for taking too long between points, Baltacha broke her opponent's serve in the sixth game and then fired her second ace of the match as she served out to take the set and level the match.

Momentum was firmly on Baltacha's side now and she breezed through the final set, winning six games in a row to move within one more win of a possible fourth-round clash with Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova.

Baltacha, who will face world number 19 and 15th seed Silvia Farina Elia in the third round, said: "It still hasn't sunk in.

"I'm really delighted. I was so tired today, it was really hurting, but I thought if you just keep fighting anything is possible.

"Now I can really relax and have fun. The matches I've had I knew I had a chance but I know it's going to be much tougher now."

Baltacha is certain to climb to a new career-best world ranking inside the top 130, and her guaranteed prize money of £19,000 is almost as much as she won throughout the whole of last season.

"I'll have to change my flight now for the fifth time but I think I'll stick with economy," the Kiev-born right-hander joked.

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