By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
The ex-British no1 outmuscled Czech qualifier Kristyna Pliskova 7-5 7-6 when they crossed swords for the very first time, much to the delight of the supportive spectators cheering Baltacha’s every point.
Last week Baltacha had seen off Slovenkia’s Tadeja Majeric to capture her first title in two years, albeit a ITF Challenger, on Nottingham’s grass. And that shot of confidence appeared to hand the Scot the momentum she displayed at Eastbourne.
Granted a wildcard for both the AEGON International and Wimbledon, with her world ranking of no185 dismissed by the tournament directors, she seized the opportunity to show why she was a popular figure at the seaside resort.
Baltacha, who almost retired following the 2012 London Olympics after undergoing foot surgery, had missed 10 months off the WTA Tour but the Ipswich-based ace has since brilliantly bounced back.
The 29-year-old is a Devonshire Park regular, so no doubt she will be shifted from an outside court to gain support on the show courts. However, neither Centre Court nor No1 Court were much more than half full, whilst the outer courts were packed to the rafters by enthusiastic supporters.
Baltacha, who eased to a second set tiebreak victory 7-3, made a mockery of the 21-year-old ranked 82 places higher.
She said: “My results on grass are quite amazing really as I didn’t play for 10 months, and I nearly retired after the Olympics nearly a year ago.
“To have ankle surgery and then go through rehab, I can’t believe how far I’ve come in such a short space of time.”