French Open: Elena Baltacha's column

French Open

Venue:
Roland Garros, Paris
Date:
22 May - 5 June
Coverage:
Live on BBC Red Button/online (UK only) & text commentary (#bbctennis) on BBC Sport website from 1000 BST; daily highlights programme on BBC Two; updates & commentary on BBC Radio 5 live/5 live sports extra

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Beaten Baltacha aiming for top 50

French Open second round:

It's time to wash the orange clay out of my tennis socks and start thinking about the grass-court season, which seems to come around more and more quickly every year.

I hate losing, so it's not like I was very happy about getting beaten by Vania King in the second round of Roland Garros, but you have to get rid of the disappointment very quickly as a tennis player and start trying to use what you can take away and use in the future.

This has been my best clay-court season ever, by miles, and my game has developed a lot. It might sound a bit odd, given that I'm soon going to be the grand old age of 28 (in tennis years) in a few months but for so long my clay-court game was non-existent, so the last few weeks have been a big learning curve.

I've really learned to mix pace and spin and bring a lot more variety to my game and my serve.

Having lots of matches on clay also gets you very fit and physically I feel in very good shape after the last few weeks. I know that if I can bring that combination of confidence, improved fitness and a better tennis game on to grass then I've got a great chance of winning some matches on a surface I've always felt very comfortable on.

My first events are in Nottingham, where the Aegon Trophy tournament I won this year is followed by the new Aegon Challenge $100, 000 ITF event. After that it will be on to Eastbourne and on to Wimbledon.

June can be a crazy month and I've certainly had my highs and my lows playing on grass, but I do love it. How can you not love competing in front of your home crowd and have people getting so into the sport you play?

Nottingham might not be exactly Paris, and I will miss looking at the Eiffel Tower as I eat my breakfast in the morning, but the courts there are fantastic and I'll love that feeling of the grass under my feet when I go out for my first practice session.

My coach Nino and I have been on the road for six weeks now, including a two-week training block at the La Manga Club in Spain, and I'm looking forward to getting home to Ipswich and unpacking my bags. I won't give you the gory details but my racquet bag is definitely starting to pong a bit after weeks of having sweaty training gear, dirty socks and goodness knows what else chucked in it.

I was a bit surprised to find that the clay itself is also a bit smelly - I've never been playing on it long enough to notice before! My wash cycle is definitely about to go into overdrive and I hope my grass-court game does the same.

Elena Baltacha will be contributing regular columns to the BBC Sport website throughout the summer.

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