Exclusive Interview: Elena Baltacha
Current British number two Elena Baltacha first caught the eye of British tennis fans after she reached the third round of Wimbledon as an 18-year-old in 2002.
Elena – who is currently ranked at a career-high of 102 in the world – was born in the Ukraine before moving to the UK with her father (who was a professional footballer for Ipswich town) and her family 20 years ago.
The 26-year-old finds a spare moment in her busy schedule to answer a few questions for The Sport Review.
How are you feeling ahead of your next tournament in Shrewsbury next week?
Excited and confident. I’ve been working very hard. Nino (Elena’s coach) and I have been tweaking a few things with my game, just trying to maximize everything as much as possible and I feel my preparation couldn’t have gone any better.
Do you ever set yourself any targets before a tournament?
The only target I ever set for myself is to prepare for the tournament in the best way I can. I want to stay injury-free and compete as much as possible mentally, physically and emotionally on court for every match.
If you’re not playing a tournament, what is a normal week for Elena Baltacha?
My week would look like this: Everyday two two-hour tennis sessions plus a one hour gym session. The gym is for strength and conditioning or injury prevention, plus a movement session with Nino. It’s five or six days a week. It’s hard work but I love it!
The constant travel is something that some tennis players find difficult. Do you feel the same or is it a part of the job you enjoy?
When I was younger I used to find the travelling difficult, especially if I’d be away from home for 4-6 weeks – I used to miss my family loads. But with age comes maturity and you begin to realise that it’s part of the job. I now absolutely love it and wouldn’t change it for anything!
What are the best and worst aspects of being a tennis player?
For me, the best thing is being able to do what you love doing as a job; to travel around the world and experience new places, cultures and meet different people. The worst is all the flying – I’m not a good flyer at all!
What are your thoughts on the current state of the women’s side of the game in Britain?
I think we’re in a much better state now than what we have been in before, especially over the last few years. We now have quite a few groups of girls, all fighting for the top 100 spot and also a few juniors who are coming up the rankings now.
Are there any players, past or present, that you look up to or have influenced your game?
I don’t really have a player who I look up to or who has influenced me as such. I enjoy watching players like Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and other players who work hard and have an agressive style to their game. I try to watch as much tennis as I can as I feel I can learn a lot from their game and try to add it to mine.
Did you watch much of the US Open? What did you make of Kim Clijsters’ triumph?
I tried to watch as much as I could. It was tough to follow it completely as I was busy training during the day and also because of the time difference. By the time the matches were on in the evening I was asleep and recovering from my hard sessions. But it was fantastic to see Kim Clijsters taking the title. She’s worked so hard and is such a great player. She truly deserved it.
Much has been made of Dinara Safina getting to number one in the world without having won a Grand Slam. Do you think the way in which the rankings are calculated needs changing?
I don’t think they should change how the rankings work. Safina deserves the number one spot. Compared to all the other players on the tour, she has performed the most consistently throughout the year.
Finally, what would you like to have achieved this time next year?
I would love to be in the top 100 and moving forwards towards the top 50. And staying injury-free of course!