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WIMBLEDON NOTES

Baltacha Only British Woman Left

June 26, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WIMBLEDON, England — Not long after Daniela Hantuchova emerged as a legitimate top player by winning at Indian Wells in March, her coach, Nigel Sears, was asked: "How did an Englishman come to be coaching a Slovak woman?"

"Well," Sears replied, "have you seen the British women?"

Yes, the British women are a beleaguered lot in women's tennis, especially at Wimbledon. If Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski figure to be facing pressure here for two weeks, the expectations of the women probably will last for no more than a few days ... because usually they are all eliminated in the first or second round.

This year, there is a first-round survivor.

Wild-card entrant Elena Baltacha defeated qualifier Maria Vento-Kabchi of Venezuela, 6-4, 6-4, Tuesday.

Baltacha's countrywoman, Jane O'Donoghue, drew a much tougher assignment, facing two-time defending champion and top-seeded Venus Williams, who beat O'Donoghue, 6-1, 6-1, in 45 minutes.

Still, the British teenager came away thrilled with her Centre Court experience and felt she had emerged with her dignity intact.

"[Williams] came out and nearly did four aces, so she was quite loose," said the 19-year-old O'Donoghue, who ranks 344th. "Then I realized, 'I've got a mountain to climb here.' "

Her sports psychologist had advised viewing Williams in a different way--as just another opponent--but O'Donoghue would not say how she interpreted that advice.

TNT analyst Martina Navratilova considered it poor advice.

"That is psychological babble," she said. "Are you going to shrink [Williams] to 5-6 and pretend you're in Birmingham on Court 13? You play the ball, you don't play Venus.... Take it to the ball."

That was not the most one-sided match, though. Fourth-seeded Monica Seles defeated Eva Bes of Spain, 6-0, 6-0, in 37 minutes. Seles said she was suffering from a virus and was unable to medicate because of IOC drug rules.

Meanwhile, WTA officials remained upset about the BBC's airing of Anna Kournikova's contentious interview on Monday.

Public relations officials had said Monday that the questions were too tough.

Georgina Clark, the WTA's vice president of European operations, met with BBC and All-England Club officials on Tuesday to register a complaint.

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