Women's Tennis: Baltacha Does It at Last

Antony HerbertAnalyst IIISeptember 27, 2009

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 25:  Elena Baltacha of Great Britain plays a backhand during the women's singles second round match against Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium on Day Four of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 25, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Elena Baltacha can breathe a huge sigh of relief when the latest WTA rankings are revealed. For the first time in her career she will finally see her name forged into the top 100.

After her hard fought victory against Katie O’Brien in the Aegon Pro Series tournament in Shrewsbury Elena finally accompanies rival Anne Keothavong into a two digits ranking position. It has taken close to ten years!

As a double celebration her fellow countrywoman O’Brien will have the same accomplishment bestowed upon her for also reaching the final.

For Elena Baltacha this accolade has been a long time coming.

Women’s tennis in Great Britain has had little to smile about in the last ten years, with a fourth round berth not being seen in any Grand Slam by a British female since Sam Smith’s heroics at Wimbledon.

Baltacha in the duration since Smith’s performance has always looked the likeliest hope for a repeat showing; she is the only British player to reach the 3rd round of a Grand Slam in recent years, reaching the 3rd round in previous Wimbledon and Australian Open tournaments.

Combined she also boasts the strongest form book for any of the current British competitors.

It therefore seems quite surprising that Anne Keothavong reached the top 100 and top 50 first, especially when you consider that Anne’s Grand Slam performances have rarely warranted attention.

Elena’s progress however was always hampered by illness, mainly a weak kidney which resulted in various operations and a hindrance to her career. She also spent a vast amount of excruciating years depressingly close to the top 100 but not quite achieving her desired status.

For a player who one year had the fastest non Williams’ sister serve it is somewhat disheartening to think that the years of inner turmoil may leave her reaching for her peak in the final few years her career has left.

Her long overdue achievement of reaching the top 100 should however stand her in good stead for future tournaments, hopefully providing the inspiration the Scottish player needs to break into the top 50.

Elena has always seemed to have a higher level of grit and determination and than her countrywomen and now with direct entries into Grand Slam’s she will have a bulging opportunity to showcase her talents.

Future success in the game from the LTA will undoubtedly come in years to come from the young Junior Grand Slam winners Laura Robson and Heather Watson, but Elena will increasingly continue to prove that without her injuries and operations she will always be a force not to be taken lightly.

She may only have a handful of years left in her competitive career and on occasions such as the second round of Wimbledon this year she can stumble, but she will strive to make the most of every opportunity and leave a small enough foundation for the LTA to build on in future years.

Whether or not the climax to her career will reach further elevated heights remains to be seen but the first hurdle has eventually been broken through and maybe from now on the only way is up.