Disappointment in Dubai for Elena Baltacha

British No 1 Elena Baltacha is out of the Dubai Championships after losing a close first-round encounter to Romania's Alexandra Dulgheru yesterday.

World No 30 Dulgheru has had a disappointing start to the season with three first-round losses, but Baltacha was not able to take advantage and fell to a 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 defeat.

There was nothing to choose between the players during the first set until Dulgheru stepped up her game in the tie-break.

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In the second set, Baltacha, ranked 68th, recovered from an early break to draw level at 4-4, but the Scot could not hold on to her serve in what turned out to be the final game.

Caroline Wozniacki can reclaim the No 1 ranking from Kim Clijsters if she reaches the semi-finals in Dubai. Clijsters, who won the Australian Open last month, leads Wozniacki by 180 points in the rankings released yesterday. But she is skipping this week's tournament, giving the 20-year-old Dane a chance to overtake her again.

Wozniacki, however, said on Monday that she never pays attention to the rankings and felt no difference whether she is No 1 or No 2.

"I have no idea. I don't look at rankings," Wozniacki said. "I do my best. If I'm No 1, that's great. That is what I always practice for. If I'm No 2, it's still great. I go out there and play and do my best and the ranking comes afterwards."

Wozniacki took over the top spot in October from Serena Williams, who has been out of action since injuring her foot and has seen her ranking fall to No 12. But the Dane has taken flak because has never won a Grand Slam title. At the Australian Open, she lost to Li Na in the semi-finals.

Ahead of her opening match tomorrow, Wozniacki appeared bored with questions about the top ranking and the quality of the Dubai field, which doesn't including Clijsters nor the Williams sisters, who are both out injured. The rest of the top eight players in the world are at the tournament, however. "Maybe at least I won't get this question over and over again, 'How does it feel to be No 1 without winning a Grand Slam?"' she said. "I don't feel differently. The sun is shining. I'm still playing the same away. I'm still here to compete in the tournament and trying to win it. There is no difference."

She also dismissed suggestions that the field is weaker since it doesn't feature some of the biggest names in tennis. Sixth-ranked Venus Williams won the tournament last year, and Justine Henin recently announced her retirement for the second time because of an elbow injury sustained at Wimbledon. "Justine, Kim, Venus, Serena. Of course, great champions, no doubt about it, great players," Wozniacki said. "It's just not the same any more. I think there are so many great players out there. Even when they are fit, it's not sure they'll win all time because there are a lot of good competitors out there." Wozniacki said she felt strong coming into Dubai, but was also not overconfident despite being the top-seeded player. She will face either Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia or Anna Chakvetadze of Russia.

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