One of Elena Baltacha’s favourite perks that comes with increased involvement on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is the proximity it affords to some of the sport’s legendary names.
The British No.1, who is due to be seeded at next week’s AEGON Classic in Birmingham, is enjoying a breakthrough season in the professional game.
With her body finally allowing her ability to decide her fate rather than the other way around, the 26-year-old has had an outstanding 2010.
Not only did she equal her Grand Slam best when she reached the third round at the Australian Open in July, she backed that up by qualifying for some of the game’s most prestigious tournaments during the American hard court season.
That brought her a first ever top ten win, over Na Li in Indian Wells, and a rise of 20 places up the world rankings.
And it has also meant she receives a better standard of service when she attends tournaments such as the one in California, where she beat China’s Li.
In fact, Baltacha was given the best seat in the house when she was at Indian Wells and had the practice court right next to Roger Federer.
“It was really weird,” Baltacha said. “He was there on Court A and I was on Court B, we had a bench which Federer came over and sat on.
“It was amazing being so close, every so often I would have a look over and see how nicely he moved – you can see why he’s such a legend.
“I love watching Federer and Nadal, although I probably prefer Nadal because I admire his fighting spirit and the way he plays.”
But the VIP treatment doesn’t end there. Being in the world’s top 60 affords several advantages, not least someone to carry your baggage and the use of tournament-assigned transport.
“Just being around these players makes you play so much better,” she said. “I have played Dinara Safina, Maria Sharapova and Na Li already this year and the more you are exposed to that level of tennis the better it is.”
And Baltacha could get the chance to meet Maria again – very soon. Sharapova has entered the Classic will be keen to carry on her own good form.
* The AEGON Classic takes place at Edgbaston Priory tennis club, from June 7 -13. Details at the official website.