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Ipswich: Former British tennis number one Elena Baltacha dies at the age of 30

PUBLISHED: 08:54 05 May 2014

Elena Baltacha

Elena Baltacha

Ipswich tennis star Elena Baltacha has lost her battle with liver cancer.

Late last night the 30-year-old’s husband Nino Severino spoke on behalf of her family and friends when he 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.”

The daughter of former Ipswich Town player Sergei died in the early hours of yesterday.

Elena, who always went by her nickname Bally, was diagnosed with liver cancer in mid-January, two months after retiring from professional tennis and just a few weeks after marrying Mr Severino, her long-time coach and partner.

At the time her diagnosis was made public the former British Number One said: “I am fighting this illness with everything I’ve got.”

Despite a determined battle against the disease, Ms Baltacha passed away peacefully at home with her husband by her side and surrounded by friends and family.

Before being struck down with illness, she put her heart and soul into the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis, which helps children from all backgrounds to learn and play tennis.

All those involved in running the Academy have pledged to carry on the work that she started.

A Rally Against Cancer - Rally For Bally - will now be held in her memory on June 15 to raise funds jointly for Royal Marsden national cancer charity and Elena Baltacha Foundation, the charity attached to the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis.

Andy Murray, Ross Hutchins, Martina Navratilova, Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski Jamie Murray, Jonny Marray, Anne Keothavong and Heather Watson are some of the names who will play in mixed doubles exhibition matches at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club, the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and the Aegon International in Eastbourne.

Ms Baltacha represented Great Britain for 11 years in the international team competition Fed Cup

She was a proud member of Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games, playing singles and doubles.

She spent 132 weeks as British No.1 in singles between December 2009 and June 2012, with her highest world singles ranking being 49, achieved in September 2010.

Ms Baltacha won 11 ITF Pro Circuit singles titles.

Her last competitive tournament was the 2013 US Open.

The Lawn Tennis Association’s head of women’s tennis Iain Bates said in a statement: “We have lost a shining light from the heart of British tennis - a true role model, a great competitor and a wonderful friend.

“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.

“All our thoughts are with Nino and the rest of Elena’s family. We will miss you Bal.”

Stars from the world of tennis have been paying tribute to Elena Baltacha this morning on Twitter.

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