Baltacha's winning run shudders to a halt
Elena Baltacha's excellent run of form came to a shuddering end against the world No. 5 at the AEGON International on Wednesday.
Baltacha won her first title of the season at Nottingham last week, and she carried that form into the first round at Eastbourne, beating Aravane Rezai on Tuesday. However, the British No. 1 had little answer to Victoria Azarenka, slumping to a 6-1 7-6(0) defeat.
Last week's run to the Nottingham title saw Baltacha refuse to drop a set throughout the competition. Against Azarenka she was broken twice in 29 minutes, giving the 27-year-old a reality check - if she needed one - ahead of Wimbledon.
The first set saw Baltacha win just 12 points as her Belarusian opponent leapt all over her serve. Azarenka was smoother from the baseline and distinctly more aggressive as the home favourite struggled to settle.
Baltacha found herself a set down inside half an hour, but Azarenka's serve was about to fall to pieces as the Brit found a way back into the match. Getting one of six first serves in, Azarenka was broken immediately at the start of the second set, allowing his rival to build a quick 3-0 advantage.
Azarenka was the player dictating the match though, knowing it was hers to lose, and an improvement in serve percentages immediately resulted in a restoring of parity in the set at 3-3. After a lop-sided opener, Baltacha was now contesting every point, and the players shared more breaks en route to a tiebreaker.
Unfortunately for the Brit, the breaker only served to focus Azarenka's mind as the Belarusian raced to a 7-0 victory in the shootout.
Melanie South's bid to secure a place in the first round of Wimbledon came unstuck in the second round of qualifying, with the Brit beaten 7-5 6-3 by Japan's Misaki Doi.