Wimbledon 2013: Elena Baltacha first Brit to bow out after losing first round match in straight sets to Flavia Pennetta

Former British number makes early exit after 6-4 6-1 defeat

Elena Baltacha believes she is on track to challenge Laura Robson and Heather Watson for the British number one spot despite tumbling out in the first round of Wimbledon today.

The Scot had what looked to be one of the more winnable matches in a tough draw for the British players as she tackled Italy's Flavia Pennetta.

But Pennetta, a former top-10 player who missed much of last season with a wrist problem, was too solid and too clever and ran out a 6-4 6-1 winner.

Baltacha returned in April from eight months on the sidelines following ankle surgery, during which time she changed her mind about retiring.

At 167th in the rankings, the 29-year-old has a long way to go to challenge 38th-ranked Robson and number 56 Watson, but, with a renewed love for the game, the pair are in her sights.

Baltacha said: "With Laura and Heather, they're young and very talented. Seeing what both of them are doing, I just find that it's a really good challenge.

"Realistically, am I going to get it? I don't know. But I think in a year and a half, maybe two years, with all the work I've put in, hopefully I'll be a contender for it.

"I can already feel I'm a different player. It's just finding that consistency.

"If someone said to me nine weeks ago, 'Your second week back, Judy (Murray) is going to select you for Fed Cup', I would never have believed that.

"Winning Nottingham, winning a round at Eastbourne, if someone said that to me, I would have said, 'Actually I'll take that definitely'.

"I think from having the surgery, not quite knowing what was going to happen, I'm pretty happy with that.

"I've still got another three or four years. We'll see what happens. I'm happy with what I've achieved, but I think I can do more. I'm just hoping I won't run out of time."

Baltacha's fine form on grass, winning a second-tier event in Nottingham and then pushing top-10 player Maria Kirilenko in the second round at Eastbourne, had lifted hopes she could reach the second round at Wimbledon for a third straight year, but it was not to be.

Baltacha said: "I knew going into the match that if someone has been 10 in the world, has been around for a long time, they're going to be dangerous.

"I had patches where I played well but it just wasn't consistent enough. I think the serve let me down today."

Follow game-by-game coverage of Andy Murray's first match of Wimbledon 2013 against Benjamin Becker

PA

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