British interest in the ladies’ singles was brought to a halt on Centre Court this afternoon as Jennifer Capriati cranked up her Wimbledon title challenge with a crushing straight-sets victory over Elena Baltacha.
Jane O’Donoghue’s defeat earlier today meant British hopes rested on Baltacha’s slim shoulders but she was blasted out of contention by the big-hitting New Yorker and number seven seed Capriati, who triumphed 6-4 6-4.
It was not all doom and gloom for Baltacha, however, as the 20-year-old wild card showed plenty of courage – and considerable skill on occasion – against an opponent sat 324 places higher in the world rankings.
But the Wimbledon title is one of the two Grand Slam events missing from Capriati’s roll of honour and the 1992 Olympic gold medalist was in mood to suffer a humiliating early exit from the tournament.
The 28-year-old, who was plagued by a back problem earlier in the season, arrived for her 11th appearance in SW19 full of confidence after reaching the semi-finals of the French Open earlier this month.
And she immediately set about following her impressive victory over Claudine Schaul in her tournament opener by breaking Baltacha in the first game today, denying her opponent the chance to land a single point.
She suffered a slight wobble herself when losing on her own service but swiftly readjusted her sights and reaped the rewards as she took the next four games before Baltacha managed to halt the slide by battling back to 3-5.
Baltacha was only delaying the inevitable, however, as Capriati once again found her aim and outfoxed her opponent out in the 10th with a deft backhand to claim the first set.
Capriati broke in the third game of the second set and looked well set to produce more of the same in the fifth before a well-placed ace from Baltacha - which prompted a look of surprise from Capriati – saw her wrestle back the initiative.
But normal service was resumed as Capriati took control in the middle of the set before winning the 10th game as a powerful serve saw Baltacha’s return fail to clear the net.