Tributes to tennis star Baltacha, 30, after losing battle with cancer

Billie-Jean King led the tributes to former British tennis number one Elena Baltacha, who lost her battle with liver cancer on Sunday morning at the age of 30.

Tributes to tennis star Baltacha, 30, after losing battle with cancer

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

Former tennis great King, 70, who won 39 grand slam titles, was moved to hear of Baltacha’s death and said on Twitter: “Saddened to hear about Elena Baltacha’s passing.

“My fondest memory w/Bally was sharing a wonderful chat when we met the Queen at Wimbledon.”

Andy Murray, the current Wimbledon champion and British number one, also paid his respects to Baltacha.

Baltacha’s husband 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.”

Baltacha retired from professional tennis last November after a career which had seen her ranked as the British number one for 132 weeks, from December 2009 to June 2012. That achievement was despite being diagnosed with a liver condition — primary sclerosing cholangitis — at the age of 19.

Her highest singles rank was 49, which she reached in September 2010.

Baltacha’s former coach Jo Durie, a two-time grand slam champion in mixed doubles, hailed the Scot as a “fighter”.

“She fought on the tennis court and she had problems she had to fight for the rest of her life,” Durie said.

“She didn’t find out about the condition until she was about 19, she had to fight through that as well, but she always took such a positive view of everything.

“She was just a fighter, I think that’s what everyone would say about Bally.”

Martina Natvratilova, an 18-time grand slam singles champion who announced in 2010 that she had made a full recovery after being diagnosed with breast cancer, said: “Elena Baltacha 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.”

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