Monday, 05 May 2014 - 13:27
Elena Baltacha dies at the age of 30 from liver cancer
The former British No1 Elena Baltacha died of liver cancer early on Sunday morning. She was 30.
Baltacha was diagnosed with the illness in January, two months after retiring from tennis and only weeks after she married her long-time coach Nino Severino.
"We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined Bally," Severino said in a statement released by her family.
"She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness."
According to her family's statement, Baltacha died peacefully at home. The daughter of the former Ipswich, St Mirren and Inverness footballer Sergei, she had retired from professional tennis last November after a career which had seen her ranked as the British No1 for 132 weeks, from December 2009 to June 2012. Her highest singles rank was 49, which she reached in September 2010.
The Lawn Tennis Association's head of women's tennis Iain Bates said in a statement: "Today we have lost a shining light from the heart of British tennis - a true role model, a great competitor and a wonderful friend.
"We have so many special memories to cherish but this leaves a gaping hole for everybody in both British and women's tennis and words simply cannot express how saddened we are by this news. All our thoughts are with Nino and the rest of Elena's family. We will miss you Bal."
Baltacha was diagnosed at the age of 19 with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver condition which compromises the immune system, but she managed it throughout her career with medication and regular blood tests. After deciding to quit the professional game she had been coaching junior tennis players at her Ipswich-based academy prior to her illness.
She and Severino, whom she married in December, had been organising another 'Rally for Bally' – a series of charity events that will feature Andy Murray, Martina Navratilova and Tim Henman after a successful debut last year.
In a statement the LTA said: "Today British Tennis mourns the loss of one of our own. The news of the death of Elena Baltacha, one of the shining lights of British women's tennis of recent generations, is devastating to everyone who has ever had the privilege to know her, play against her or call her a friend or team-mate.
"It leaves a huge hole within our sport. Bally gave new meaning to the word 'fighter'. She fought tirelessly during her career against opposition on court and never gave in to the struggles she endured off it.
"Forever remembered for her relentless determination, unbelievable drive and a will-power that never ceased to amaze us, it was a pleasure to watch Bally develop into a world-class player and become an outstanding role model for everyone in the game. With her enthusiasm, spirit and passion for life, she was a pure joy to be around and, having recently got married to her husband Nino Severino, she was embarking on a new chapter in her life.
"The health issues she battled since her teenage years made what she achieved during her career all the more impressive."
- The Guardian