Elena Baltacha was one of the best female tennis players out of Britain. Throughout her 11 year career, she won numerous matches on the ITF circuit in both singles and doubles. She also held the distinction of being British No. 1 for 132 weeks from December 2009 to June 2012. Sadly, she never got to further her career as disease took her from the sport she loved.
The Guardian reports that Baltacha, 30, died of liver cancer on Sunday, May 4. While she had only been recently diagnosed with cancer early this year, she has been living with primary sclerosing cholangitis since she was 19. The disease affects the bile ducts and often leads to liver cancer sooner or later. Even so, she continued to play tennis up until last year. She then retired from the sport and married her former trainer Nino Severino.
Announcing her death, Severino released the following statement:
"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."
In remembrance, the tennis players at the Mutua Madrid Open on Monday opened with a moment of silence for Baltacha. Those tennis players not in attendance shared their condolences on Twitter:
Impossibly sad. Forever a teammate. Sweet dreams Bally.
— Laura Robson (@laurarobson5) May 5, 2014
— Bob in Spain (@ExpatTennisFan) May 5, 2014
Rest in Peace, Bally! pic.twitter.com/3EC1eFYOaU
— Jimmie48 (@JJlovesTennis) May 5, 2014
We've lost our lovely Bally, too young. Rest in peace. My thought are with Nino and all of her family xx
— Heather Watson (@HeatherWatson92) May 5, 2014
Before her death, the tennis community was planning "Rally for Bally" - a charity event to benefit the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. The event is still scheduled for June and those who want to donate now can do so here. The event has already raised over £10,000 since it began and will likely raise as we approach the rally in June.
Image via Wikimedia Commons