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British women slipping away from Olympic target

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Originally published on: 09/05/12 00:00

The first 56 places in the 64-strong singles draw go to players on the basis of their world rankings. Elena Baltacha, who has slipped to No.67 in the world, is currently the highest ranked British player.

Although the International Tennis Federation would almost certainly allocate at least one of their six wild cards to Britons, the leading players from the host country had been hoping to secure their places through their world rankings. The problem for the home contingent is that the direct acceptances are based on the players’ rankings on 11 June, the day after the clay-court season finishes at the French Open.

Britons usually struggle on clay and this year is proving no exception. Five British players are currently ranked in the world’s top 200 – Baltacha, Anne Keothavong (No.78), Heather Watson (No.110), Laura Robson (No.126) and Naomi Broady (No.189) – but between them they have won only one singles clay-court match on the WTA tour this year.

Watson, who was troubled by an ankle injury in the early part of the year, has been the best British performer on clay. She won three matches in qualifying in Estoril and beat Lucie Hradecka in the first round before losing to Petra Cetkovska. The 19-year-old from Guernsey is playing in an ITF tournament in Cagnes-sur-mer this week and beat the Czech Republic’s Eva Birnerova in her opening match. The next four Britons in the world rankings entered the same tournament but all failed to make it beyond the first round, although Robson won three matches in qualifying.

Baltacha, who began the season as world No.50, has won only two matches on the WTA tour this year and has suffered first-round exits in six of her eight tournaments. Keothavong has won three WTA matches but has slipped five places in the world rankings since the start of the year.

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