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Elena Baltacha first round

Monday 24 June 2013

Elena Baltacha gives her Wimbledon press conference following her 6-4 6-1 first round defeat to Flavia Pennetta.

Q. Obviously disappointing. It seems as though you were really into the match the first set.

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, I mean, I knew exactly like the tactics. We spoke for the last two days about it. You know, the tactic was to go heavy into the forehand because her backhand is pretty well, I mean, her forehand is decent but the backhand is kind of the killer shot. She can take you down the line unexpectedly, which she did a few times in the match.

Mostly it was to try and get into that forehand and then wait, then obviously go heavy into the backhand. But then the problem was I couldn't go heavy enough into the forehand. I couldn't really expose her. I wasn't really getting many short balls off it or balls I felt I could run around and really hurt her. A few times I got her back behind.

But I think she moved well and she was very smart with how she defended today. And I just kind of felt, you know, she played very, very solid, I think more solid than probably how she has been playing recently. But then I knew going into the match that, you know, if someone has been 10 in the world, has been around for a long time, you know that they're going to be dangerous, even if she's dropped in the ranking. I know she's had some problems with her wrist, 'cause I get on well with her, so we speak quite a lot in the locker room.

I knew she was going to be dangerous and not to take her lightly. I think on the whole she played a very, very solid match. And I think I didn't play my best. I didn't play how I have been the last week and a half.

But, I mean, I had patches where I played good. But it just wasn't consistent enough to get more out of what I was trying to do tactically wise against her.

I think the serve let me down today. I've been serving really good the last two weeks, and today I just couldn't quite. When you compare my serve to her serve, she was getting more freebies, she was getting more aces, she was getting more short balls than what I was doing. A lot of the times I was serving second serves today, which is never a good idea. I think that's where I fell short.

Q.  Why the lack of consistency in your game today?

ELENA BALTACHA:  Today, you know, well, there's a number of reasons obviously. Because I still haven't banked I mean, what is it? My ninth tournament. That's one of the things I feel that I still need to work very hard on. But I think also, you know, you are going to go from week to week, and you can't be perfect every week. It's just finding that balance where you are trying to get that middle, so you're not like up here one week, you're not right down there. It's just trying to find that line where, you know, you can really try and maintain.

And I think even before I came back, I mean, that was I think, for me, I was trying to really get a grip on, as well, where before I had a lot of peaks and then I had a lot of not great tournaments, as well. It's kind of been one of the things I've been trying to really, even before when I played, really trying to find that balance where you are, trying to perform regularly on a kind of week to week basis.

Q. You had your problems with injuries and so on. You've even talked about retirement. You put off retirement. After that defeat, will we continue to see you back here at Wimbledon in years to come?

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, definitely. You know, when I came back actually, I did retire after the Olympics. Obviously, since I kind of had the surgery, I said to my coach, Nino, there's no point going through the rehab, going through all that, trying to get myself back to say, I'm only going to play for a year. There's too much. There's too much you're sacrificing, the hard work.

I'm 30 this year. So I still think I've got a good three, four years unless something happens and I won't be able to, with the body and I know I just can't push through it, then yeah. I think if I look after myself, I think I have a good few years left.

Q. I noticed you played Flavia in your first Wimbledon qualifier in 2000. What do you remember of that match? How has this Wimbledon experience changed?

ELENA BALTACHA: I remember it was Roehampton, one of the back courts. The courts were definitely not as good as they are here. I remember losing, I think it was 6-4 in the third. It was a really, really tight match. Yeah, I can't remember how old I was.  I think I was about 17.  And, yeah, I mean, it's such a long time ago.

Q.  How will you use your protected ranking over the next few months?

ELENA BALTACHA: I'm looking to use it in Stanford and Washington. It depends, because it depends who really enters, because obviously I'm one of three. Some years there's quite a big drop, and some years, quite strong. It just depends. We'll finalize that in a couple weeks to see who's entered.

I think you have to use them smartly. I don't want to be entering and finding out I'm in qualifying where I could have entered qualifying and got in not having used my protective. I have seven left, so I can use it up until April. So I've just got to be smart and see if I need any, you know, kind of the start of next year in Aussie. Yeah, as we're talking at the moment, I think Stanford is going to be my first tournament.

Q. I think pretty much all the Brits here are playing higher ranked opponents. It's been quite a tough draw. How close an eye will you keep on the other results? How important is it to get a couple wins?

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, I wish all the girls the very best. I know we've all got tough draws. And, you know, I hope they really perform well and I hope we get wins definitely, absolutely. But, you know, we've all got pretty tough draws, yeah.

Q. Do you find yourself under extra pressure when you're given a wild card to try to perform?

ELENA BALTACHA: No, not really. Do you mean like if you're actually given a wild card, do you feel more pressure? Or are you saying if you're playing a wild card?

Q. If you're given a wild card.

ELENA BALTACHA: Not really. It's a real opportunity. I really thank the All England Club that they felt I really deserved my wild card this year. It's just a brilliant opportunity, and I think that's how all the girls would see it. They've worked hard, they've got into that ranking, and they've been given a spot and they deserve it, all of them. All of us deserve that spot in the main draw, so...

Q.  Is it rather strange, obviously being the first match up, you'll have played the first match at a tournament before, but to think this early in the day, Wimbledon is over for me this year? Does it feel odd?

ELENA BALTACHA: No, not really.  Like you said, I have played at slams where I have been first on. And, you know, I was actually really ready. I was really ready coming off, like, last week. I've been here for a few days and I've been training. Even like before the schedule came out, I was hoping I would be Monday, because I just felt like I was playing really well. I think sometimes if you have a long wait, you get a bit impatient. So, to be honest, I was happy I was playing today. I didn't really mind whether I was going to be scheduled first or last.

Q. After what you've been through down the years, you're still here, you're still fighting. When you say you have three or four left, maybe good years, what are your ambitions now?

ELENA BALTACHA: Well, obviously at the moment I really need to get my ranking back up so I can get myself into kind of the bigger events. I've probably missed the cut for US Open main draw. My main goal would be to try to make the cut for the Aussie main draw. I need to get my ranking up. Obviously, from there you can set like bigger targets.

The challenge I've kind of set myself is I want my No. 1 spot back. I had it for a while. 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, I think, you know, with all the work I've kind of put in, I think hopefully I'll be a contender for it, so...

Q. Are you generally happy with how things are progressing? You had a good two weeks leading into here.

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, definitely, I'm very, very happy. Yeah, I spoke about it, doing a lot of work with the same team, like with Nino being my main coach. It was a great idea that Nino brought Louis Cayer on board, working really hard with him the last few months. He's brought a lot of amazing things to my game.

It's just a matter of, you know, just doing it, just keep doing it, keep working hard. I mean, I can already feel I'm a different player. It's just finding that consistency where I really know what kind of player I am. To be able to do that, you know, on a week to week basis, I think I am getting closer to that.

If someone said to me like nine weeks ago, You're going to be back, your second week back, Judy is going to select you for Fed Cup, 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 think I'm pretty happy with that.

Q.  You mentioned before it's been a tough draw for all the British players. Laura and Heather, a lot of attention on them. Is it important that they make it through, at least last till the end of the week?

ELENA BALTACHA: They've got tough draws. Laura has Kirilenko. She's 9 in the world. I played her last week. She's a top player. It's going to be a hard match for Laura. Who does Heather have?

Q. Madison Keys.

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, I mean, she's an up and coming American star. It's going to be tough. But Laura and Heather, they've been in that situation before. I know they're young, but they've already had a bit of experience banked. You know, they're very talented. If you get them on a very, very good day, they can both pretty much take most of the players out in the draw.

You know, they'll know what they're doing. They have to go out there and really perform. If they don't then, look, they bank what experience they bank and then they have to move on to the next tournament. That's how it works. As special as Wimbledon is for all of us, you know, you have to in a way treat it as another tournament, however hard that is, but you have to because then you have to move on and look forward to your next tournaments and achieving better things later on in the year, so...

Q. When you said you quit after the Olympics last year, because you never really announced it officially, at what stage did you officially or unofficially unretire?

ELENA BALTACHA: Unretire (laughter)? No, I kept that one quiet. I did keep that one quiet. I don't know. I don't know. Just depends, doesn't it? Just depends.

Q. At what stage did you decide you were not retired anymore?

ELENA BALTACHA: Well, it was really, uhm, kind of like leading up to kind of my operation because I kept putting my operation off. I kind of said to Nino after I got back from a trip with one of the girls, Nino said, Look, just see how the operation goes and see how the rehab goes, then obviously make a call, but don't kind of set anything.

I think after two weeks I had with the rehab, I kind of knew then that I kind of had that hunger back and I wanted to definitely kind of come back. But, again, I kept that kind of a bit quiet because, you know, I really wanted to make sure that I finished the rehab and I didn't have any other problems and that I was really kind of ready to go come like start of the year, so...

Q. Did you watch Andy's documentary last night?

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, it was brilliant. It was really, really brilliant. He's so inspirational, you know, just to see what he kind of went through. I think we're really lucky to have him in this country. You know, he really is a great role model.

Q. He's been extremely successful. Would you have hoped that he would have been an example to have better results instead of the odd good result?

ELENA BALTACHA: I mean, when you look at Andy, the difference is, what, he's one of the best tennis players in the world. You know, obviously when you look at the women's side, I mean, you know, if you take Andy out of it, the women are doing better than the men, they are. But I think when you're thinking about what Andy's achieved, yeah, it is quite difficult. There is quite a bit of pressure in the men's to obviously try to do what Andy's done.

But, you know, we've got good juniors coming through. Hopefully they'll, you know, in a few years' time they'll do what he's kind of doing. But, I mean, what Andy has achieved, it's very difficult, very difficult to find someone like that.

Q. But is the talent pool there in this country? You would have seen the younger ones coming through.

ELENA BALTACHA: Obviously I've got an academy, EBAT. We have 150 players now, boys and girls. We're doing very well. You have to be patient. It's going to happen, not in the next few years, it's going to happen in five, six years' time. Yeah, I mean, that's one of the things. I know it's been in the papers the last two weeks that we do need more kind of kids playing, definitely, absolutely. I always said the more that play, you get that competitiveness, you get the filters. Some leave, some stay. Obviously, the more that you have, the more that will come through because, you know, there's so much to play for.

You know, if you're looking at 10, maybe one will come up. If you're looking at 25, you're looking at 30, 40, 50 kids fighting for the same thing. You're getting more coming up.

Q. Wouldn't that be finding them in different places? Good or ill, tennis is still perceived as a middle class sport. Maybe the hungrier, the ones that aren't from that background, they can see that as a way out.

ELENA BALTACHA: The thing is, I can only tell you what I know from the academy at EBAT. We're doing pretty well. Like I said, we have 150 kids playing. We went into the schools. We started with 10 girls. We've built it up with boys and girls now. We did another ID, which brought another 60 kids. You can do it. You can definitely do it.

Q. What background are those kids from?

ELENA BALTACHA: They're from all schools.

Q. They're in sort of the more deprived areas of town?

ELENA BALTACHA: They're from various different parts. We were restricted to what we could go in to target the kids. We started with kids in deprived areas, but now we pretty much target all the schools.

Q. If you look back after the last decade or so, do you feel you've gone as far as you could have done, given your talent, or do you feel you've done your talent justice?

ELENA BALTACHA: Not yet. I've still got another three or four years. We'll see what happens in another three or four years. 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.


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