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January 21, 2005

Elena Baltacha


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Elena.

Q. A match too far?

ELENA BALTACHA: Well, going into it, I knew it was going to be a really tough match. I didn't know how well she was going to play - how well she did play. Whatever I threw at her, she not only got it, but kind of delivered with intent. But I've had a superb week. I've had great, great fun. A great experience out there today. No, it's been a really positive week. I've picked up points. I'm going to go home with a held head, so.

Q. I suppose if someone had said to you a week ago that you would play six matches here, you probably would have given them a funny look, wouldn't you?

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, that's right. If someone said I was going to qualify and get to the third round, I'd say, "I'll take it, thanks."

Q. Of everything you've done in the seven days, what has been the most beneficial? What is the biggest memory coming away from here?

ELENA BALTACHA: I think, first of all, not getting a wildcard. I've had to qualify. I've had, well, six unbelievably tough matches. And I've had a great experience on Show Court 2 today. I got my arse kicked one and love. That's the only way I'm going to learn and I'm going to improve. I know I've got a lot of weaknesses. It's going to be really exciting going home and working hard on these kind of areas.

Q. You used the word "knackered" to describe your physical situation before the last match. What was today like?

ELENA BALTACHA: I was buzzing today actually. It's completely different. It was a completely different match, as well. I had nothing to lose. And I had a lot of fun. What a great experience for me.

Q. How does what's happened here over the last week or so affect your goals for the future?

ELENA BALTACHA: Well, it's completely different now because my ranking is going to zoom up. I can enter different tournaments. I mean, I don't know what my schedule's going to be now. It's probably going to change when I get home. I need to sit down with Alan and Jo and discuss it.

Q. Must have raised your expectations?

ELENA BALTACHA: No, because I am really sick of where I am at the moment. I know I'm a much better player. Even if I would have lost first-round qualifying, I know I'm a much better player. I've worked really hard for that. But it's just exciting to know I can do this and still have weaknesses. I mean, it's really exciting.

Q. How far did you think you were off her level today? The score looks bad, but the match itself, the games were quite tight.

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, the games were tight. But, you know, she's been in the top, what, 20 for the last six years. She was awesome today. She's unbelievably quick. I didn't realize how quick she was and how patient she was, how comfortable she was with what I was delivering. I think Jo said to me said it still looked as if it was still kind of an effort for me to move and to play my strokes and stuff. And I overforced today because I didn't know what to do in the end. She was just too good. But it's exciting. You know, that's kind of the level that she gave. That's kind of the level I want to get to. But also I haven't actually played anyone that high outside of grass court. So it's a great experience for me playing someone like that on a hard court.

Q. Did you at any stage actually sort of take a look at her and as I, "My goodness, what a physique she's got"? She's got big, powerful legs.

ELENA BALTACHA: Wow, yeah (smiling). She's so quick. I did look at her and think, "Oh, my gosh, wow." How well she played today, how patient she is, how relaxed she's feeling, how comfortable she feels at what I'm kind of giving to her. No, it was a great experience out there today.

Q. You're probably going to go up around the 125 mark. Did you set yourself any ranking goal for this year?

ELENA BALTACHA: Not really. I just thought -- I think once you kind of set a goal on rankings, then I think you can kind of get a bit... If you look at points and what you're picking up, what you have to defend, you can get trapped into that. So I've never really done that. I didn't really realize how high I could get after just these two weeks. It's exciting. But, wow.

Q. When you were sort of pounding it in La Manga before Christmas, what was the extent of your ambition?

ELENA BALTACHA: Actually, last year, because I started the year at 400, I didn't really think that I would get to about 185. So for me that year, last year, was kind of a good achievement. I didn't realize the first two weeks of the year I was going to get to 125, like you say. And now I can look at tournaments a little bit differently, what tournaments I can enter, what tournaments I'm better off playing. So it gives me a wider option.

Q. We were talking fondly about Sunderland the other day. Can you give us some idea about what the other options you have now are?

ELENA BALTACHA: I'm not sure whether I'm going to play Sunderland, Redbridge. I probably will play one of them. Then I thought of playing some challengers in America. But Alan kind of said, "Let's not rush ahead. Let's enter some WTAs." I really don't know what I'm doing at the moment. Like I say, if I get to 125, I don't know roughly what the ranking will be, it will depend on what kind of tournaments I can get into.

Q. If you play in Sunderland, do you think you're going to have trouble? Here you've had the crowds, bigger courts each time. There it's going to be back to, I don't know...

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, but that is what I've kind of been used to for the last year. It's all kind of, well, I've come in here and done this. But I know where I am at the moment, I do know where I am at the moment. Like I say, I didn't expect to get my ranking this high up. But, no, I think I will always play a couple of challengers here and there. I think that's what my schedule will be like.

Q. You've learned you can play at a higher level presumably in the last week. Have you learned other things about yourself in that process?

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, I think I've realized what I'm kind of capable of. I have done very well. I've dug deep this week, and I've had results, I've had good results knowing that I've still got weaknesses. I have got a lot of weaknesses still, and knowing that if I can get only better at them, how much more I've got within me. That's exciting.

Q. You're amazingly close to getting to the Top 100. Have you considered that prospect for the year?

ELENA BALTACHA: No, I'm not really thinking about that, to be honest with you, because I could -- just say I might not do great or something before Wimbledon. I've got no points to defend. I'm not really going to be because I know this isn't my last chance to get into the Top 100, I know that. I will have a lot more opportunities. So I'm not going to kind of get trapped into thinking, "Oh, my God, I'm nearly there, nearly in the Top 100." I'm not going to do that.

Q. Does it help you the next time you have a hard grind in a gym session or court session?

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, it does, because all of this kind of hard work that I've put in, I kind of think, "Oh, my God, I'm kind of getting the rewards now." And it is exciting. And it will give me a boost in confidence and everything. I know when I go home, I know the academy will be, you know, really proud. I think it will give them a boost, as well, the youngsters in the academy.

Q. How excited are you about going home?

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, I'm pretty excited. I kind of miss my home. I know that there's been a lot of kind of stuff in the press at home. It will be nice to go back and just, you know, keep my head down and focus and keep working hard.

Q. Pulling on my tamashanter for a minute, do you still see yourself as a product of Scottish tennis?

ELENA BALTACHA: Oh, God. Thanks for that (smiling). I'm a mix, to be honest with you. I'm such a mix.

Q. The reason I ask is because, obviously, a lot has been said and done about Andy Murray. Wouldn't it be strange if our two No. 1's in a year or two's time are both Scots?

ELENA BALTACHA: To be honest with you, I feel like a mix. I was born in Kiev, that's where my roots are. I lived in Scotland for many years. Now I live in London. Everywhere that I've kind of lived, I've always felt so welcomed. But I represent the Union Jack flag, that's the United Kingdom.

Q. How old were you when you moved down from Scotland to London?

ELENA BALTACHA: I was 15. I was 15.

Q. Full-time?

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, I moved down with my mum, in Enfield. I've pretty much lived in Enfield the whole time.

Q. Did Judy have much to do with you when you were up there?

ELENA BALTACHA: No. I was with Jimmy McKechnie. We lived in Perth. And then I moved to Glasgow because he moved to Glasgow. The whole family ended up moving to Glasgow.

Q. You don't really know the Murrays?

ELENA BALTACHA: No, not really.

Q. You said there were weaknesses in your game you wanted to work on. Which particular parts of your game do you think you need to work on?

ELENA BALTACHA: I have to get quicker. I have gotten quicker. I need to get quicker visually and leg speed. I need to work on my serve. My serve has gone a bit funny. To be honest, just the whole game. I need to work on the whole game. I need to know where I am on the court better. I mean, I can go on and on and on. A lot of things. Taking more balls out of the air, getting to the net, kind of understanding where I am at the net, what am I meant to be doing next. There's a lot of things.

Q. How much more do you feel there is to come from you as a player?

ELENA BALTACHA: A lot more. A lot more. I've got a lot of weaknesses. You know, Alan and Jo keep saying to me how exciting it is. They know how to help me, so I'm really confident.

Q. There have been some pretty wonderful champions who have worn spectacles over the years. Do you find them a bit of a hindrance? Can you play without them? Have you tried contacts?

ELENA BALTACHA: I'm actually thinking of trying contacts when I go home because they have been a bit of a pain, constantly getting sweaty. Change of ends, I have to keep, yeah, getting the tissues out. But, no, I am going to think of (trained?) lenses, see what happens.

Q. Have you also considered the laser eye surgery?

ELENA BALTACHA: Not really because I think your eyes have to be kind of stable for you to do them. My eyesight isn't at the moment. It's kind of going up and down. I'll wait maybe a couple years.

Q. Are you shortsighted?

ELENA BALTACHA: Yes, yes, shortsighted.

Q. So playing without glasses would just be an impossibility?

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, yeah. So I need something.

Q. You had to leave your hotel, find a new hotel, is that right?

ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, yeah, no problem.

Q. Was that disruptive?

ELENA BALTACHA: No, not at all. It was quite funny. I had to pack and kind of move out. I think the hotel overbooked. There were quite a few angry people, so.

Q. Do you feel by coming down here and just less than two weeks later going back, you've kind of taken a shortcut in terms of ranking? Your earningings this year are already massive compared to last year.

ELENA BALTACHA: You know, it's really nice to know that when I go home now, because I haven't got anything to defend until Wimbledon, it's just nice to kind of not feel kind of any pressure to pick up points because I did well in Sunderland. I just kind of thought if I kind of try and pick up some points, kind of if I don't do well there, it will be nice to not drop my ranking from 185. It's nice to know now I haven't got anything to defend. Anything will be a bonus.

Q. But rather than the Top 100, would not the cutoff for Grand Slams, it's normally around the same, I don't know what it is, 112.

ELENA BALTACHA: You mean for main draws?

Q. Yes.

ELENA BALTACHA: Something like that, 112, 110.

Q. Would that be an immediate goal?

ELENA BALTACHA: Well, that would be excellent. That would be such a bonus if I can get into Wimbledon, for example, without a wildcard. I think that's my kind of end goal.

Q. Not the French?

ELENA BALTACHA: Even the French. That would be just awesome. That really would be. That would be a bonus. But I think that is kind of -- that's my goal, my full-on goal, to get into main draws without having to get wildcards anymore, that I'm kind of doing it myself.

Q. Could you imagine yourself coming down here again next year at this time, having to qualify?

ELENA BALTACHA: Hopefully next year I won't have to qualify, hopefully. But, no, I think I could do it again. I've really had a great time here. I've really enjoyed everything here. I've loved the people. I love the way the courts play, the way the balls fly. It's really given me a huge confidence being here.

End of FastScripts….

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