Former British number one tennis player Elena Baltacha has died of liver cancer, aged 30.


Born in Ukraine and raised in Scotland, Baltacha revealed she had the illness in March of this year.
Baltacha, who was British number one for nearly three years, retired from the sport in November 2013.
“We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined Bally,” said husband Nino Severino, who was also her coach.
“She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness.”
Baltacha learned she had liver cancer in mid-January 2014, two months after retiring from professional tennis and only a few weeks after marrying.
World Tour players, including Andy Murray, will gather for a minute’s silence on the centre court at the Madrid Masters later.
Murray told BBC Sport it was “tough” to understand such a “tragic” loss, and to comprehend how quickly the illness had advanced.
Baltacha, who died in the early hours of Sunday, was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, (external) a chronic liver condition which compromises the immune system, when she was 19.
Despite her illness, which she had to control with medication and regular blood tests, and suffering from multiple injury problems, Baltacha went on to reach the Australian Open third round in 2005 and 2010 and reached a career-high world ranking of 49.
She won 11 singles titles, made the third round of Wimbledon in 2002 and was part of Great Britain’s Fed Cup team for 12 years, under the captaincy of Judy Murray.
Among a host of tennis stars paying tribute, the current women’s British number one Laura Robson took to Twitter (external) to say: “Impossibly sad. Forever a team-mate. Sweet dreams Bally.”
World number one Serena Williams tweeted: (external) “My deepest prayers, thoughts, concern and love goes out to Elena Baltacha’s family. I am deeply sorry for your loss. Revelation 21:4.”
Eighteen-time Grand Slam singles champion Martina Navratilova, who was treated for breast cancer in 2010, said Baltacha had been “taken from the world much too soon – fighting to the end and we will miss her”.
“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.”
Billie Jean King, six times a Wimbledon singles champion, tweeted: (external) “Saddened to hear about Elena Baltacha’s passing. My fondest memory with Bally was sharing a wonderful chat when we met the Queen at Wimbledon.”
Baltacha’s former coach, ex-British number one Jo Durie, said it had been “very draining and tiring” for Baltacha “because she was battling her liver condition as well as pushing her body to the limits as an athlete”.
“I have this image of ‘Battling Bally’ giving her all on court in every match.
“She didn’t want to talk about her illness, but rather talk about her tennis and how that was going. She was such a fighter.”
Iain Bates, the Lawn Tennis Association’s head of women’s tennis, said: “We have lost a shining light from the heart of British tennis – a true role model, a great competitor and a wonderful friend.”
Stacey Allaster, chairman and chief executive of the World Tennis Association, added: “Elena’s journey was never an easy one and yet she consistently showed her strength, good humour and indomitable spirit.”
Baltacha’s agent and friend Eleanor Preston told Sky News: “It was part of Bally’s emotional make-up to be very stoic, she never once asked ‘why me?’ or ‘why is this happening?’ She was incredibly strong and determined and that was who she was.
“She achieved an awful lot – and in the context of having a serious liver condition that she struggled with since the age of 19. This is why she should be held up as a role model.
“She went through it all without the slightest bit of self pity or ego.”
A host of stars, including Navratilova, Robson, Andy Murray, Ross Hutchins, Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski, Jamie Murray, Jonny Marray, Anne Keothavong and Heather Watson have agreed to take part in a fundraising event, The Rally Against Cancer – Rally For Bally, which will now be held in her memory on 15 June.
The mixed doubles exhibition matches at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club, the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and the Aegon International in Eastbourne will raise money for the Royal Marsden national cancer charity and the Elena Baltacha Foundation.
Great Britain Davis Cup player and Queen’s Club tournament director Hutchins, who is in remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer, told BBC Sport: “We all wanted the Rally for Bally to lift Elena, but now this special event will be held in memory of Elena.
“She was a special person who will be remembered for positive things; a hard worker, a true professional and someone who gave so much back to the sport of tennis.”. Sad News I must say,RIP Elena you will forever live in our Hearts.

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