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January 17, 2011

Elena Baltacha


E. BALTACHA/J. Hampton
3-6, 6-4, 7-5


Q. You like a good fight then?
ELENA BALTACHA: Oh, my God. Yeah, that was difficult. She just came out like firing. It was just like ridiculous. It was just like I'm not going to rally, bang, bang, winner, winner. She served big, as well.
But I remember as a qualifier, you know, you've earned your spot. You're flying high on confidence. You've got nothing to lose. She showed no respect. She went out there and she played loose.
And the first kind of set and a half, I kind of felt, well, I kind of don't feel I'm doing anything wrong. It's not my errors. My serve's not a disaster or anything like that. It was just a matter of me trying to hold in there, you know, with her.
And then that game at 4-4, I played a good game, broke, and then held. I thought, Right, this is going to be interesting. She gave me a really sloppy first game, and then I played a really bad game to go 4-4.
I thought, Right, you've just got to hang in there. This girl's 130, so she's got to break at some point. And she did. She served. Obviously the umpire called it out. She didn't agree with it. I don't know what she said. And then that was it. It was like three double-faults, and then she went. I was happy to serve it out.

Q. What was the issue with your leg?
ELENA BALTACHA: I twinged it a bit. I actually did it early third set. I thought, Okay, just wait, just wait. It just got a bit sore, so I thought, Right, well, it's raining as well. I'm going to get some treatment on it.
But it hasn't got worse, so I'll just need some physio treatment and just look after it. Thank god I've got a day off tomorrow. Keep getting it worked on and play again on Wednesday.

Q. When you have an opponent that you think is going to blow out but doesn't, is it more of a mental battle?
ELENA BALTACHA: I think the experience kind of helped me, because I remember when I was like the qualifier. I remember that one year here I qualified and played Srebotnik. Afterwards she was like, Oh, I don't know what you ate, you were just like so hot.
So I think just kind of going through that, like myself, how I kind of -- you know, when I kind of did things like that and just that kind of experience, I knew not to get annoyed, not to get frustrated, because there was nothing that I could have really done anything else.
I didn't want to overpress because I didn't want to give her like cheap points. I just wanted to see how long she could -- and it got close. It got really close.
But, yeah, I think just the experience, just to stay cool and calm, just let her get herself in a tizz. She did actually. She did in the third.

Q. Were the double-faults almost surreal?
ELENA BALTACHA: Gee, it was quite funny. I don't know what she said to the umpire. But when that happened, she kind of smiled. I thought, Right, this is going to be interesting. She served a double. I thought, Right, that doesn't surprise me. Then she served another double.
Then I thought, Right, she's gone. I've got to make her play this point. This is huge. Then she gave me another cheap double-fault. I thought, Right, this is it. I've got to step up now.
Thank god the umpire got her a bit rattled.

Q. That was the only smile she gave you the entire match.
ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, no, she was out there and she had nothing to lose. She was just swinging. She played a really good match.

Q. Does that bring out the best in you, maybe a dogfight and a real strong battle?
ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, definitely, especially if Justine Henin is going to come through in three. It's good. It's always difficult playing matches like that, you know, because obviously that was my first match. She's already played three matches. But it sets me up quite nicely for Wednesday, so...

Q. Was that the idea, that you might play Justine, in your head during the match?
ELENA BALTACHA: You know what? Not really. Again, with experience, I just did not want to -- I mean, everyone was kind of saying, Potentially Justine.
But, you know, I was just like, No way. I don't even want to talk about it. I've got to do a job first, and that's it. And then, yeah, it would be amazing to play one of the great legends. But I'm not there yet, I've got to get the job done first, so...

Q. If it is going to be Justine, do you think you've got a chance there?
ELENA BALTACHA: I think I've got to believe that I've got a chance, because otherwise there's no point playing. You know, I don't know. The chances are probably slim. But on the match day, I'm going to go out and I'm going to fire. I've got nothing to lose at all.
I've got to go out there and I've really got to believe that I can beat her, because, like I said, there would be no point. It would be like a walk in the park for herself.

Q. She's been saying over the last couple weeks she won't be back to the top of her game until maybe the summer. Is that herself talking down her chances, do you think?
ELENA BALTACHA: Possibly. Possibly. I don't know. I don't know what she's feeling. Obviously she's been out for quite a while. I don't know. Maybe that kind of takes away the expectation that maybe people have of her maybe winning the Australian Open.
So I don't know. Maybe it helps her cope with his better. But I don't know. I don't know.

Q. Does what she says encourage you?
ELENA BALTACHA: If it's true, then, yeah, it will be quite nice if she's not going to fully peak by the summer. But we just don't know, so...

Q. Can you remember playing in conditions like that before here? Plenty of times back home, but not here.
ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, actually I remember the first time I qualified here. I remember my last round of qualifying it was literally like on and off, and I remember I was so tight. I was just praying that it wouldn't rain.
Literally that was the first time that I qualified for a slam, so I was just so uptight. I was so nervous. I was like walking up and down. But, again, with experience, you know, you learn. You learn.

Q. Is it at all difficult as you get better and better and your ranking goes up, you do have these matches where you're almost expected to win, you go into one like on Wednesday where, as you said, the pressure is not on you, is that back and forth difficult or...
ELENA BALTACHA: I think, again, it kind of comes with experience. Of course, it's easier when you're playing when you're not expected to win, of course, because then you can relax and, you know, you can just play loosely.
But then you've got to -- I think it's kind of like -- what I mean with experience is you've got to try to match someone who is like the girl, 130, she comes out guns blazing.
I kind of thought, No, you know what, I'm main draw here. I've worked very hard. I had an unbelievable year. I'm going to keep it together, you're not, because my ranking is where it is. You know, I need to find a way.
And I think I've just kind of developed that, especially like last year where I think that Wimbledon experience for me was quite difficult. But I'm glad it happened, because it kind of made me much stronger, you know, knowing that that was my match and I didn't deliver and I did fall apart. I had to get stronger to get into the top 50 if I wanted to be a top-50 player.
There's different levels. I really feel that that experience has really helped me like develop as a player. And, yeah, like today it was like, Right, you can swing loosely. I know if I just keep it going, because, you know, at the moment I'm 55. I'm a better player. So I know if I just keep going, I know you're going to break down, so...

Q. What game plan would you have against Justine?
ELENA BALTACHA: You know, I haven't really thought about it, to be honest. I was so concerned about the first-round match. I really wanted to get that done.
I don't know. I mean, we're gonna discuss it. I know she's on now, so maybe try and sneak out and have a look at the third set. I think just really play my game. I mean, just play my game, hit it heavy, get her moving.
I mean, she's a good player. She's one of the legends. It's not going to be like, Right, okay, well I'll go to the forehand because it's slightly weaker. I think it's going to be more about myself trying to control what I can control and just trying to really deliver, so...

Q. What did you learn from the third round last year? Can you take anything from that to use this year?
ELENA BALTACHA: Yeah, I remember after the match I said that I didn't feel like I performed, I didn't do myself justice. I think because during the year I put myself in a great position because I played the big players. I felt that that experience with Safina, that really kind of helped me kind of learn that, uhm, I had to play on a big court, kind of had to deal with it better.
But I think because I have played quite a few top players, it's kind of changed my game in a way a little bit. So hopefully on the Wednesday when I go out, I'm not going to feel a bit like, you know, on the back foot.
Hopefully I'll be -- hopefully I can match her in certain ways.

Q. You say the girl today didn't give any respect. Will you give Henin respect?
ELENA BALTACHA: No, you can't. No, you can't. Because once you give someone respect, that's it. If they know it, you're not going to be fully focused on your game.
That's the other thing I learnt actually. If I give her respect, it's going to be like love and love within, I don't know, maybe half an hour.
You've got to go out there and show no respect. That's what the girl did today. I mean, fair enough. That's what you've got to do.

Q. Talking about respect, did you get the idea the ball flew towards you from her end and hit the backcourt? Did you think, No respect?
ELENA BALTACHA: No, I was actually chuckling to myself, but I had to give her that little glare, like, Okay, you've nearly hit me. But I did laugh because she did mean it. She did mean it. I had to kind of pretend like it really wound me up, so...

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