Jan 17 2009
Elena Baltacha and Katie O'Brien have joined Anne Keothavong and Melanie South in the main draw of the Australian Open.
It is the first time four British women have been in the main draw of a grand slam - outside of Wimbledon - since the US Open in 1992.
Baltacha, the 19th seed, overcame top-seeded Croatian Jelena Kostanic Tosic 6-1 6-3 in qualifying to book a first-round match with Anna-Lena Groenefeld. O'Brien did not drop a game in her first set against Betina Jozami, seeded 21. But the Argentinian rallied to take the second set to a tie-break, which O'Brien won 7-2.
Three years ago Baltacha reached the third round in Melbourne before bowing out to 15th seed Silvia Farina Elia 6-1 6-0.
"I'm really, really happy. I've had a great three matches. I'm a bit speechless really because I still can't believe it if I'm honest," the 25-year-old said.
"I've had such great memories here and hopefully I can build on that and really give it a go whoever I've got in the opening draw.
"I've got nothing to lose now. I've qualified and I've got the three matches behind me and whoever I get I just need to give it a really good shot and see what I can do."
Should the British number three progress, she could face 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo in the second round.
O'Brien's victory has earned her a first-round date with Romanian Monica Niculescu, ranked 51st in the world.
"It's an absolutely amazing feeling (to have qualified). I'm still shocked to be honest. I just went out there today and I was so focused. I lost in the last round last year and I was just determined that I was going to do it this year and it feels great."