Baltacha storms into Nottingham final

BRITISH No1 Elena Baltacha is through to the final of the Aegon Trophy in Nottingham but there was heartbreak for Anne Keothavong, who retired through injury, while Alex Ward's incredible run came to an end.

Baltacha beat Xinyun Han of China 7-6 (7/5) 6-3 last night but hopes of an all-British final were dashed when Keothavong pulled out because of a hip problem when trailing Sandra Zahlavova 6-4, 3-3.

The 26-year-old, who is only just returning from a serious knee injury, insists her retirement was only precautionary with the bigger grass court tournaments in mind.

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"It's my hip," she said. "It's been a little bit sore and I felt it in the match. Retiring and pulling out of the doubles is really disappointing but, with so many big tournaments coming up, it's a precaution I felt I had to take."

Scot Baltacha had been forced to play both the semi-finals and quarter-finals yesterday, because of bad weather earlier in the week, and earlier she triumphed 6-4, 6-0 over reigning Wimbledon junior champion Noppawan Leertcheewakarn.

However, it was a disappointing day for Ward, whose impressive tournament was brought to an end.

Ward had delighted home fans with two outstanding victories to reach the men's quarter-finals – including a win over fourth seed and four-time ATP Tour winner Taylor Dent on Thursday, but he was defeated in straight sets by Andre Begemann with the German triumphing 6-2 7-6 6-3.

He said: "I'm pretty disappointed really. I started off the match badly and picked it up in the second but by the third I found it difficult to step it up to the next level.

"When I look back at this tournament I know I'll be very pleased with what I've achieved.

"I think my world ranking will go up around 100 places now."

Meanwhile, world No6 Svetlana Kuznetsova has been given a wild card for this month's Aegon International in Eastbourne.

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The Russian, who won last year's French Open, is a former champion having triumphed on the south coast back in 2004.

"I am delighted to have been awarded this wild card to Eastbourne. It's such a great tournament and it brings back good memories after my victory there in 2004," said Kuznetsova. "The grass courts are fantastic and it provides excellent preparation for Wimbledon."

The Devonshire Park event begins on 12 June.