New focus for former Town star
13:45 26 June 2008
SERGEI Baltacha is today hoping that the Russian football side can ease yesterday's disappointment of having seen his daughter Elena crash out of the second round of Wimbledon.
The former Ipswich Town and Soviet Union player was visibly nervous as he watched his 24-year-old daughter lose to China's Jie Zheng 6-2, 7-5 on court two in a rollercoaster match.
After a nightmare start Elena found herself 4-0 down in the first set and, despite a brave fightback to 4-2, comfortably lost the first set.
The doggedly determined Baltacha junior then got herself into a position to serve out the second set but, despite being 40-15 ahead at one stage, was broken and went on to lose the next two games and the match.
Proud father Sergei, who has recently been working as a coach on Charlton Athletic's academy, said: “I was so nervous watching - it's like being on court yourself. It was frustrating because she had something but unfortunately could not take it.
“At this level you don't get many chances, but she's learning all the time.
“This tournament has definitely been a forward step for her. She seems to have finally put all her injuries and bad luck behind her now and I am sure that next year we are going to see her best tennis yet.
“I am so proud of what she has achieved.”
Sergei - who became the first Soviet international to play in the English Football League when he signed for Ipswich in 1989 - played 47 times for the Soviet Union during his career.
As a result, despite being born in the Ukraine, Sergei regards himself as Russian, having grown up in an era where most of Eastern Europe was part of the Soviet Bloc.
With two of the doctors who worked with the national side when he was a player still involved with the current Russian squad, Sergei is desperate to see his adopted nation defeat Spain in the semi-finals of the European Champ-ionships tonight.
Having been part of the USSR team that lost in the final at the 1988 European Champ-ionships, only the outstanding Dutch denying them the title, Sergei believes the Russian team could potentially go one step further 20 years down the line.
With Russia already having gained revenge on the 1988 final by knocking out Holland team match in this year's quarter-finals, Sergei said: “Russia have really impressed me with their organisation and team-work.
“They have maybe one or two good players - Arshavin the most obvious example with his ability to both make and score goals - but overall it is their togetherness that is getting them through.
“They counter-attack well and always look like scoring one or more goals.
“Because of that they have a good chance of making the final. If they do, then who knows what will happen.”