Britain’s Elena Baltacha, in her 12th appearance at Wimbledon, survived for only 74 minutes on No.3 Court against Italy’s Flavia Pennetta who dominated most of the key points to win 6-4, 6-1.
The sad fact for Baltacha was that it was the sixth time she had gone down at this early stage and although she had some patches of quality tennis, invariably she was chasing points rather than winning them.
Pennetta had won their two previous matches and on a dry cool afternoon broke serve in the first game, a clear indication of what was to come. Baltacha won two points in that first game and was never able to play herself back into real contention. There were shots and rallies where Baltacha boosted her confidence but the pressure was always on trying to compete at least on level terms. Pennetta allowed her few opportunities.
Pennetta followed up her opening break by capturing Baltacha’s serve in the seventh game to lead 5-2. Immediately Baltacha broke back to 5-3 with a well-constructed attack, finding some weaker parts of the Italian’s game.
Baltacha held serve to love for the only time to pull up to 5-4. But she could not shake Pennetta’s control and the Italian wrapped up the set after 42 minutes.
Nothing improved for the 29-year-old Baltacha in the second. She lost her first serve to two drop shots and was broken again in the third game after a closer but unrewarded struggle to stay in contention.
Baltacha’s difficulties were underlined in the final game when she lost the first two points to Pennetta’s accuracy and although the British girl got to 30-all, two missed forehands confirmed her departure.
Baltacha has a protected ranking after ankle surgery and had a wild card entry into Wimbledon but she she insisted that she will be playing on. "I need to get my ranking up so that I can get myself into the bigger events," she said. "I've probably missed the cut for the US Open main draw and my main goal now will be to make the cut for the Aussie main draw. I want my No 1 ranking back. With Laura (Robson) and Heather (Watson), they're young and very talented. 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 have put in hopefully I will be a contender for it."
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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