Tributes pour in for 30-year-old cancer victim Baltacha

Laura Robson says Elena Baltacha will be “forever a team-mate” after the former British number one lost her fight against cancer.

Tributes pour in for 30-year-old cancer victim Baltacha

Laura Robson says Elena Baltacha will be “forever a team-mate” after the former British number one lost her fight against cancer.

Baltacha was diagnosed with liver cancer in January, just two months after retiring from tennis and only weeks after she married her long-time coach Nino Severino.

She died peacefully at home on Sunday, aged 30.

A statement from Severino read: “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.”

Baltacha was a long-serving member of Britain’s Fed Cup team where she played alongside Robson and Heather Watson, who both paid tribute on Twitter.

Robson wrote: “Impossibly sad. Forever a teammate. Sweet dreams Bally.”

Watson added: “We’ve lost our lovely Bally, too young. Rest in peace. My thought are with Nino and all of her family”.

A number of high-profile players, including Andy Murray and his brother Jamie, observed a minute’s silence on Centre Court at the Mutua Madrid Open on Monday.

Baltacha had retired from professional tennis after a career which had seen her ranked as the British number one for 132 weeks. Her highest singles ranking was 49 in September 2010.

Anne Keothavong, who played doubles with Baltacha in a number of tournaments including Wimbledon and the London 2012 Olympics, wrote on Twitter: “Words cannot express how much I’ll miss Bally.

“I feel so lucky to have shared so much with her and to have had her as my friend.”

Baltacha had dealt with a liver condition – primary sclerosing cholangitis, diagnosed at the age of 19 – throughout her career. She nevertheless won 11 singles titles and reached the third round of Wimbledon in 2002 and the same stage of the Australian Open in 2005 and 2010.

The previously announced ’Rally for Bally’ – a fundraising series for the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity – will now go ahead in June in her memory, featuring Wimbledon champion Andy Murray along with the likes of Martina Navratilova and Tim Henman.

Ross Hutchins, another British player to have faced cancer – in his case Hodgkin’s lymphoma – and the inspiration for last year’s original “Rally Against Cancer”, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s incredibly sad news but we’ll remember her for a long time.

“She’d got through many battles in the past, she’d been battling liver problems her whole life so we thought she’d get through this.”

The Lawn Tennis Association said in a statement: “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.”

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