TRIBUTES have been paid to the former tennis player Elena Baltacha who has passed away at the age of 30.
Born in Kiev, Ms Baltacha had moved to Britain where her father Sergei played professional football. His clubs were Ipswich, St. Johnstone and Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
The former British tennis Number One had become one of the top players in the country despite being diagnosed with a chronic liver condition when she was 19, as well as having to overcome numerous injuries during her playing career.
Eight years after the diagnosis, Ms. Baltacha had secured a place in the list of the world’s top 50 players. During her career she won 11 singles titles and reached the Third round stage of three Grand Slam events — Wimbledon in 2002 and the Australian Open in 2005 and 2010. She also played for the Great Britain Fed Cup team for 11 years.
Ms. Baltacha had only retired from the game in November last year and shortly afterwards had married Nino Severino, her former coach. Together they had established the Elena Baltacha Tennis Academy in Ipswich with the aim of encouraging young players.
But in January, she learned the devastating news that she was suffering from liver cancer.
The many warm tributes were led by her husband. Nino Severino said: “We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined Bally. She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness.”
Former champion players Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova also paid tribute. Ms. Evert tweeted: “Rest In Peace, beautiful Elena. No words. Thoughts and prayers”.
Ms. Navratilova said: “Elena was a great fighter on the tennis court. We as tennis players always worry about our bodies, trying to keep injuries at bay. But cancer, you can’t prevent that and you can’t rehab it either. And no matter how much of a fighter you are, sometimes cancer wins. Elena was taken from the world much too soon —fighting to the end. We will miss her.”
Many top tennis players will take part in a charity event on June 15 to raise funds for the Elena Baltacha Foundation and the Royal Marsden national cancer charity. The Rally Against Cancer — Rally for Bally event will see mixed doubles exhibition matches being held at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club, the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and the Aegon International in Eastbourne.
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