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Page last updated at 18:35 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Elena Baltacha and James Ward lose in Auckland & India

Elena Baltacha
Baltacha will be looking to step up her game for the Australian Open

Britain's Elena Baltacha and James Ward went out in the first round of their season's opening tournaments.

Baltacha, British number one, was brushed aside by Romanian Ioana Raluca Olaru, losing 6-2 6-2 in the ASB Classic in Auckland.

Meanwhile, Ward took the first set off Spain's Marcel Granollers before losing out 5-7 6-2 6-2 in the Chennai Open.

It was Ward's first competition after being diagnosed with glandular fever in September last year.

Despite the British duo's early exit, their progression through the qualifying stages at the start of the new year is a welcome boost for British tennis in 2010.

Baltacha, 26, came through qualification in New Zealand as the fourth seed and lived up to that billing with wins over Canada's Sharon Fichman, Severine Bremond-Beltrame of France and Canadian Stephanie Dubois.

606: DEBATE

But on Tuesday she rarely threatened Olaru, ranked 12 places higher at 72, often struggling with her return of serve.

"Awful match, shocking tennis," was how the world number 84 described the experience on Twitter.

Baltacha will now focus attentions on Hobart next week before featuring in the main draw at the Australian Open, which starts in Melbourne on 18 January, alongside British number two Katie O'Brien.

At the Chennai Open in India, Ward was playing in only the second ATP-level tournament the world number 272 had qualified for.

Britain's number four had guaranteed his participation with a qualifying win over Israel's Noam Okun, as well as India's Karan Rastogi and Marsel Ilhan of Turkey.

The 22-year-old, who worked with Greg Rusedski and spent some of the off-season training with Rafael Nadal, looked on course for another victory when he edged the opening set against Granollers on Tuesday.

However, with the score at 2-2 in the second, Ward's game began to creak and the Briton soon crashed out taking only two of the last 12 games.

Ward will begin to turn his efforts towards making the British Davis Cup team who face Lithuania in March.

British number one Andy Murray has revealed he will not play in the tie, in order to allow younger players to gain experience in the competition.



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see also
Curtains up for new year
09 Jan 10 |  Tennis
Murray defends Davis Cup pull-out
03 Jan 10 |  Tennis
GB cruise to opening Fed Cup win
03 Feb 10 |  Tennis
Baltacha takes British top spot
30 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Baltacha & O'Brien into top 100
12 Oct 09 |  Tennis
Ward ends British drought on clay
17 May 09 |  Tennis


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