Rejuvenated Baltacha Returns To SW19
Published June 23, 2013 12:00
LONDON, England - Last August, in her post-match press conference after being knocked out of the Olympics, Elena Baltacha revealed she would be taking an extended break from tennis.
The official reasoning was to undergo and recuperate from foot surgery. Reading between the lines, though, many felt the Brit had had her fill of her long-running battle with injury.
Yet, 11 months on, Baltacha is back at the All-England Club, refreshed, revitalized and with a renewed appetite for the fight.
"After the Olympics I knew I had to have surgery on my right ankle," Baltacha said. "To be honest, I hit a wall where I wasn't really enjoying it, the motivation wasn't really there and I was just going from week to week, sort of plodding on.
"Away from the tour, I was really enjoying the coaching with my girls at EBAT (Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis) and in my head I pretty much did retire after the Olympics."
So what changed her mind and fuelled the fires for a possible comeback?
"What I have found is that off the court I am not as competitive in other things. There was nothing to replace that feeling I get when I am on court and that's when I knew that I wasn't ready to pack it in yet," she added.
A short stint on the road alongside one of her teenage pupils awakened this slumbering competitive spirit further, before a frustrating few weeks watching her former peers in action at the Australian Open from the comfort of her living room finally made her mind up.
Once she had fully recovered from the surgery, Baltacha hit the practice court with long-term coach Nino Severino and the LTA's Louis Cayer, who helped bring a new perspective to her game.
"Nino made a brilliant decision bringing Louis Cayer on board," Baltacha added. "Louis has made a massive difference to me as a player, how I see myself as a player, and kind of using more of my skill.
"He's helped me realize I'm more skillful than what I thought, and also tweaking certain areas like my serve, understanding what I need to do in certain parts on the court, where I recover to, and certain movement patterns, all that kind of stuff."
Following a few months of hard graft, Baltacha made the first tentative steps back this spring, winning a few matches on the clay before her season sprang into life on the grass. Victory on the ITF Circuit in Nottingham was followed by an impressive showing in Eastbourne, where she won a round before pushing World No.10 Maria Kirilenko to three sets.
"I'm excited about it," Baltacha said of her return to SW19. "I think eight weeks ago if someone would have said to me that you're going to win Nottingham and then you're going to give Kirilenko hell in the second round of Eastbourne, I don't think I would have believed them.
"I think what I have done in the last two, three months is actually quite amazing, really."