Baltacha’s season has continued to go from strength to strength, which she puts down to the influence of her new coaching and fitness regime led by coach Nino Severino. She got off to a flying start in January at the Australian Open, where she produced the best performance of her career, to defeat Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko, a player ranked in the top 32 in the world, on her way to the third round. There she was unlucky enough to run into an in-form Dinara Safina, the second seed, but the experience served as a springboard for things to come.
She followed up her impressive performances in Australia by reaching quarter finals in Memphis and Eastbourne and winning ITF titles in Michigan and Nottingham, results that catapulted her singles world ranking to a career high of 52 and equating to a Commonwealth ranking of 3. Last month she reached the quarter finals in Istanbul defeating the French Open Champion and top seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy en route.
Baltacha’s accomplishments have fittingly earned her the Clydesdale Bank Athlete of the Month Award for July and in a double boost, her selection for the 2010 Commonwealth Games tennis team has also now been confirmed, along with fellow Scots Mhairi Brown, Colin Fleming, Jamie Murray and Jocelyn Rae.
At 19, Nottingham based Jocelyn Rae, is the youngest member of the team. Rae made it through to the final round of Wimbledon singles qualifying this year and will hope to benefit from the experience of her team mates when she makes her competitive debut for Scotland in Delhi. Doubles specialist, 28 year old Mhairi Brown from Edinburgh returned to the top flight competitive tennis this year after a period as a coach. She is looking forward to rekindling her relationship with Baltacha – the pair represented Scotland at the inaugural Commonwealth Youth Games in Edinburgh in 2000 where the girl’s team took silver. The Scots lost to England in the final after a marvellous semi final victory against an Australian team which included Jasyln Hewitt, sister of Australian tennis start Lleyton Hewitt.
The team is completed by doubles specialists Colin Fleming and Jamie Murray. Fleming has already enjoyed remarkable success over the last year. In 2009 he made his Davis Cup debut on home soil in Glasgow, following up that honour with tournament wins in the St Petersburg and Metz internationals, and already has a win over the famous Bryan brothers to his credit.
Jamie Murray enjoyed significant success early in his professional career and he will be looking to recapture the form which saw him win numerous international titles in 2007 & 2008 including Delray Beach, San Jose, Memphis and, perhaps most famously, the mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 2007 with Jelena Jankovic.
Congratulating the team, Michael Cavanagh, Chairman of Commonwealth Games Scotland, said: “It is always exciting to welcome a new sport to Team Scotland and we are delighted to have the tennis players now confirmed. Given the extreme pressures of the professional circuit we are delighted that players like Elena, Colin and Jamie have made the commitment to play for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games.”
Jon Doig, Team Scotland Chef de Mission added:”Elena clearly enjoyed her experience at the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2000 along with Mhairi Brown and we hope she will be similarly be in the mix for the medals in Delhi.”
Peter Nicolson, Tennis Team Leader said: ”This group of players, along with coach Euan McGinn, are ready to showcase the current strength of Scottish tennis in what is a rare opportunity to represent Scotland on the world stage. They are really looking forward to playing their part in what promises to be a quite spectacular multi-sport occasion.”
The tennis competition will take place at the R. K. Khanna Tennis Stadium from 4-10 October 2010.
Athlete, Event(s), Age, Lives
Colin Fleming, Singles & Doubles, 25 Linlithgow
Jamie Murray, Doubles, 24, London
Elena Baltacha, Singles & Doubles, 27, Ipswich
Mhairi Brown, Doubles, 28, Edinburgh
Jocelyn Rae, Singles & Doubles, 19, Nottingham
Team Leader – Pete Nicolson, Edinburgh
Coach – Euan McGinn, Glasgow