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By Stuart Fraser in Melbourne
22nd January 2009

Four British women were in the main draw of the Australian Open for the first time since 1992, but only one remained after the first round in Melbourne.

Melanie South kicked off British interest in the Women’s Singles around lunchtime on Monday when she took on former Wimbledon finalist and sixteenth seed Marion Bartoli.

Bartoli wrapped up the first set comfortably in just over 30 minutes by 6 games to 2. The Frenchwoman’s experience was clearly in evidence on the big points and she was much more aggressive than South who was lacking consistency.

South settled in the second set and was striking the ball much better which helped her take a 4-1 lead. However, Bartoli then won five straight games to book her place in the second round.

Katie O’Brien, who had come through qualifying, was scheduled on an outside court at a similar time to South and faced World No.51 Monica Niculescu.

O’Brien was also facing an early exit at 4-6, 2-5 down but managed to gain a crucial break to keep her hopes of a second round place alive. O’Brien was hitting the ball consistently well and Niculescu appeared to be struggling in the hot conditions.

O’Brien had to gain a further break of serve at 4-5 to draw level but she failed after netting a forehand when facing match point.

Great Britain’s highest ranked female Anne Keothavong had a tough draw against 17th seed Anna Chakvetadze. The Brit got off to a bad start when she lost the first set 6-1 in 27 minutes. It was a set to forget as Keothavong produced 17 unforced errors and only 1 winner.

Keothavong got herself back into the match in the second set when she went 3-1 up but appeared to be feeling unwell on court and all of a sudden found herself down 3-4.

The trainer was called and whatever pill she gave to the Brit seemed to work as Keothavong went on to take the set in the tiebreak by 7 points to 3.

Keothavong struggled in the third set though and Chakvetadze produced some solid Tennis to take the deciding set by 6 games to 1.

The last remaining Brit in the Women’s draw, Elena Baltacha, played on Tuesday afternoon against Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany.

Baltacha replicated some of the impressive form she had shown in qualifying the previous week and comfortably took the first set 6-1.

Groenefeld played her way back into the match though and went 4-1 up in the second set before Baltacha produced some aggressive hitting and huge serves to win five games on the trot to clinch the match and a second round tie against former World No.1 Amelie Mauresmo.

Baltacha appears to be full of confidence at the moment and should fancy her chances against Mauresmo. The match is first up today at 11am (Midnight GMT) on Show Court 2.