Elena Baltacha, a former British tennis player, died from liver cancer on Sunday. She was only 30-years-old.
Baltacha, who was born in the Ukraine but was raised in Scotland, revealed that she had cancer in March after being diagnosed in January.
Her diagnosis came only two months after she officially retired from the sport, due to ankle problems, and a few short 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. "She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness."
Baltacha was diagnosed with a chronic liver condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis at the age of 19. Despite her illness, Baltacha became the number one British player and reached the third round of the Grand Slam tournaments at Wimbledon in 2002, and then again at the Australian Open in 2005 and 2010. Her highest rank was in 2010 when she was 49th. Throughout her career, Baltacha also won 11 single titles.
"We have lost a shining light from the heart of British tennis - a true role model, a great competitor and a wonderful friend," Iain Bates, the former Fed Cup coach said. "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," Bates said. "All our thoughts are with Nino and the rest of Elena's family. We will miss you, Bal."
What sad news to wake up to today. My thoughts and prayers are with Elena's family on their tragic loss.
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) May 5, 2014
The Lawn Tennis Association also paid tribute to Baltacha. "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," the LTA said in a statement.
Sad to hear about Elena Baltacha. She was a true leader for England's tennis players. She always gave 100%
— Nick Bollettieri (@NickBollettieri) May 5, 2014
"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 statement continued. "She fought tirelessly during her career against opposition on court and never gave in to the struggles she endured off it. The health issues she battled since her teenage years made what she achieved during her career all the more impressive."
Image via Wikimedia Commons