French Open 2011: Elena Baltacha eases into round two

The British No1 overcame US teenager Sloane Stephens in straight sets to reach round two in Paris

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis
elena baltacha
Baltacha next faces American Vania King Photo: Getty Images, courtesy of the WTA

elena baltacha

Elena Baltacha, the British No1, has followed her young compatriot Heather Watson into the second round of the French Open.

Baltacha beat US teenager Sloane Stephens in straight sets, 7-5 6-2, to take two British women into the second round at Roland Garros for the first time since 1992.

It is the second successive Major in which two British women have made the same breakthrough: Baltacha and Anne Keothavong both won their opening matches at the Australian Open, too.

With Andy Murray also beating Eric Prodon in his opening match, this will also mark the first time in 27 years that Great Britain has had three players beyond the opening round in Paris.

Baltacha won a tightly-fought first set after multiple breaks of serve on both sides, but then stormed through the second with two breaks to take a confident win.

She next faces another American, the 115-ranking Vania King, who was the surprise winner over No22 seed, Dominika Cibulkova. Baltacha is therefore favourite to advance to the third round, and she sounded confident about her prospects.

“I’ve got to say that was the most satisfying win I think of my whole career. Last year I was in the main draw but the nine years before that I’ve been turning up here and been going home the same night.”

She credits much of her success to coach Nino Severino, who has encouraged her to work on her clay season. Coming into Paris, she played a number of events on the red dirt and advanced to the second round in Strasbourg last week.

The win will give Baltacha some breathing space in the rankings over Watson, who breaks into the top 100 after the Paris for the first time in her young career. A former US Open junior champion, Watson will overtake Keothavong to become the new British No2.

Watson’s first-round win over Stephanie Foretz Gacon gives her an altogether more daunting opponent in Round Two, the No16 seed Kaia Kanepi. However, a quick look at Kanepi’s record on clay this season may give Watson some encouragement: The Estonian has yet to score a main-draw win on this surface.

So there is still a chance that both British women could break yet more new ground and join one other in the third round in Paris.

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