August 23 2014 Latest news:
Monday, May 19, 2014
Leading figures in British tennis gathered at a Suffolk sports centre yesterday to pay tribute to Elena Baltacha and the sporting legacy she worked so selflessly to create.
Dozens of children who had been coached and inspired by the former British number one took part in training sessions led by Federation Cup team captain Judy Murray and Iain Bates, head of British women’s tennis, and Olympic medalist Laura Robson.
Held at the Rushmere Sports Centre, where the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis (EBAT) introduced hundreds of young players to the game, yesterday’s event was described as a “special legacy for a special person”.
The event, organised by Ms Baltacha’s husband Nino Severino in advance of her funeral today, was also attended by Davis Cup captain Leon Smith and former top 50 ranked player Anne Keothavong, a friend and rival of the Ipswich-based player, known by all as Bally.
Ms Murray, the mother of Andy Murray, who coached Ms Baltacha as a junior player, said the event’s success was testimony to her popular reputation.
“I think today has shown now much everybody thought of her, loved her and admired her,” she said.
“For all of us the important thing is to ensure that the academy survives and thrives and that it leaves a very special legacy for a very special person.”
Mr Bates was also encouraged by those who turned out at the event to pay their respects.
“It’s been an absolutely fantastic day,” he said. “We’ve got a whole group of kids who were inspired by Bally to take up tennis and they’re all here having fun with some great training exercises.
“There were so many people who were close to Bally during her life and everyone is giving something back to the sport, which is great to see.”
Ms Baltacha’s death from liver cancer on Sunday, May 4, at the age of 30, was met with an outpouring of grief from across the tennis world and beyond.
Eleanor Preston, Ms Baltacha’s manager and friend, said the response had been “incredibly touching and moving”.
“This is all about the British tennis community, the people who were in her life, professionally and personally, pulling together to continue the work that she started at the academy,” she said.
“It’s about helping to build her legacy and to remain true to her original idea to help kids from all background play tennis and have their lives enriched by sport.”
The fundraising appeal in Ms Baltacha’s memory has raised almost £30,000 for the EBAT and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.
To donate to the cause visit the Just Giving site.