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Battling Baltacha bows out

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 12:15

The British number three, ranked 111 places below the world number 23, had the better of her opponent in the first set but Mauresmo’s experience told in the end as Baltacha’s unforced error count mounted allowing the Frenchwoman to come from a set down to win 4-6 6-3 6-2 in two hours 13 minutes.

Baltacha, who had been hoping to equal her best ever performance in Melbourne by reaching the third round, was prepared to get into long rallies and force the errors from Mauresmo which came at regular intervals in the first set. She was also not afraid to mix things up either, enticing Mauresmo to the net to set her up for some smartly taken passing shots.

Both players struggled with their serves in the windy conditions on Show Court number two and there were five breaks of serve in the opening set alone.

Mauresmo was the first to gain the advantage in the third game when Baltacha, looking for winners, was slightly off target. But the Ukraine-born Brit responded well to break back immediately then hold her next service game before Mauresmo double faulted to hand Baltacha a 4-2 lead. That became 5-2 as Baltacha staved off three break points before firing a crosscourt winner.

Mauresmo, the 2006 champion, held serve for 5-3 and broke Baltacha again to get back to 5-4 but the 25-year-old Briton turned up the heat on the 2006 champion and an audacious backhand slice earned her the break and the first set.

Mauresmo got the early advantage in the second set, breaking the British woman in the first game before both players comfortably held their own service games to give the world number 23 a 2-1 lead. They traded the next two games before Mauresmo was forced to stave off two break points to take a 4-2 lead.

Baltacha was then put under pressure on her serve needing three attempts to hold out the Frenchwoman. It was a similar tale in the next game but Mauresmo broke Baltacha in game nine to take the match into a third set.

There was a 10 minute break prior to the start of the final set, with the women’s heat rule invoked before the start of the day’s play, and the extra time appeared to work in Baltacha’s favour as she broke Mauresmo in the first game. It was short-lived though as the Frenchwoman returned the dose in the fourth game to level things 2-2 then broke her twice more on the way to wrapping up the match.

Mauresmo will now take on 13th seed Victoria Azarenka who had a free passage into the third round when Tathiana Garbin retired when 4-1 down in the first set.

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