British No 1 Elena Baltacha crashes out in straight sets against Justine Henin

Reporting from Melbourne

Justine Henin ruthlessly exposed the gap between the best and the rest when she summarily dispatched Elena Baltacha from the second round.

The seven-times Grand Slam champion was detained for only 61 minutes in beating the British No 1 6-1 6-3 on the main Rod Laver Arena at the start of today's programme.

As ever, Baltacha competed hard from first to last but with Henin starting to show the class that once saw her as the world's best player, and now sees her back as one of the favourites for this title, it was largely one-way traffic.

Elena Baltacha

Losing battle: British No 1 Elena Baltacha on her way to defeat in the second round

Class act: Justine Henin displays her power

Class act: Justine Henin displays her power

The 27 year-old Baltacha pledged that she would learn from her experience of playing then world
No 1 Dinara Safina on the same spacious court in the third round twelve months ago, when she managed just three games.

There was an improvement on that performance, particularly in the first part of the second set when she gave as good as she got, but by then it was really too late.

I've done it: Justine Henin celebrates beating Elena Baltacha

I've done it: Justine Henin celebrates beating Elena Baltacha

Henin is claiming that the elbow ligament problems she had last year will stop her playing her best tennis until this summer, although that was left looking falsely pessimistic.

Baltacha will be disappointed that in the first set, on a chilly and grey morning in Melbourne, she quite often got into games but when she did so too many unforced errors or double faults tended to crop up.

As Henin does not give away games that was always going to make it one-sided and it was over in 27 minutes.

Despite the Belgian serving potently and hitting that beautiful backhand with the usual sweetness Baltacha summoned up the kind of resistance in the second set which explains why she has established herself at a ranking around the 50-60 mark.

The next six games went on serve, only for Henin to pull ahead for 5-3 with another break and then serve it out, despite slipping to 15-40 as she did so.

Baltacha was not despondent afterwards, having won matches both here and at the WTA event in Hobart the week before after a start to the season that was disrupted by heavy flu.

'Last year I felt playing on this court was a bit too much for me but I felt this time I stayed in the match,' she said.

'I knew going into the match that it would take an unbelievable performance for me to do something. In the first set I had some 40-30s but made silly decisions.

'In the second I managed to get in the zone and started feeling comfortable but then she stepped it up and it went away from me quickly. Overall it was a great experience playing a legend, it showed me things I have to improve.'

Henin, who struggled against  Sania Mirza on Monday night, said: 'It was a different match today.

'I think on Monday it was pretty good in terms of it was a good fight and she put me under a lot of pressure. Today I was more in control during the whole match.

It's over: Justine Henin (right) shakes hands with Elena Baltacha

It's over: Justine Henin (right) shakes hands with Elena Baltacha

'But I'm glad I did it in an hour after a pretty long match on Monday.'

Henin has not appeared at a grand slam since injuring her elbow against countrywoman Kim Clijsters at Wimbledon last year and she admitted being first up on Rod Laver Arena on a cool morning was not ideal.

'It is the worst conditions actually, playing first match and the temperature,' she added.
'The weather doesn't help, that's for sure.

'But I have to deal with it and get ready, be focused on my game, even if it's not easy.'

Henin is sure to be tested more in her next match as she comes up against Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open and 2009 French Open champion.

'Even if she has had a few troubles over the last year or two she remains a great player, and physically she has a lot of qualities: big forehand, great serve.

'So I know I'll have to be at my best to win that one.'

Andy Murray was left as the only remaining Brit in the singles draw and his second round match against Ukrainian Ilya Marchenko is scheduled for 7pm tomorrow night, local time, on the Margaret Court Arena (8am UK time).

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