Gallery: Rally for Bally unites tennis stars past and present in memory of Elena Baltacha
PUBLISHED: 22:50 15 June 2014 | UPDATED: 09:47 16 June 2014
Tennis stars of the past and present paid tribute to Elena Baltacha at a series of charity fundraisers held across the nation today.
Tim Henman, Andy Murray and Anne Keothavon, were among those taking part in the Rally for Bally, held in memory of the former British number one, who was based in Ipswich until her recent death from liver cancer, aged 30.
Before the event, Nino Severino, Ms Baltacha’s widower and former coach, told the BBC he spent “every second” with his wife during her “brutal” fight against liver cancer.
Baltacha retired last November, married Severino and was diagnosed with cancer in January, before passing away in May.
“In all the time I spent with Bally, this is what really showed what a person she was,” Mr Severino said.
“She never once, through the whole ordeal, ever complained.
“She said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to everybody, treated everyone with respect. She always put my feelings first before hers, never wanted me to be upset.
“I literally spent every second with Bal fighting all the way. It was horrendous cancer that she had, the worst you can get, in the liver. The fight was brutal.”
Other stars who took part in the Rally For Bally events in London, Birmingham and Eastbourne, included Martina Navratilova, Laura Robson and Greg Rusedski.
Ms Navratilova, who has also battle cancer, said: “This match is a bitter-sweet experience. We love this sport so much, which is why we came together, but life really stinks sometimes.
“It stinks that this is why we’re getting together to play but the legacy will live on and that’s the main thing. There’ll be plenty of kids that will benefit from this much premature death of Elena.
“Out of tragedy comes something good and we’ll make sure this isn’t a one-off. I’d like to make this into an annual event and keep it going because she deserves that and the kids deserve it.”
British Fed Cup team captain Judy Murray, who coached Ms Baltacha as a junior, has been a strong supporter of the rallies, which have raised funds for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and The Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis.
“It’s a very special day,” she said.
“Having one event at three venues in her honour is a big thing.
“The calibre and number of players who’ve come to support it is quite remarkable and I think that’s just a sign of how highly she was regarded across the tennis world.
“Everybody remembers her spirit, maybe not everybody knew her quite so well as a person, how humble and kind and generous and funny she was. But as a competitor everybody respected her incredible fighting spirit.
“Everybody knows about the academy now and how much she wanted to give back to the game and how much she wanted to try to grow the game and create opportunities for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to play tennis.
“Those funds will be very well used to support the academy for many years, to make sure it goes from strength to strength and that we all remember her.”
To donate to the campaign visit: www.justgiving.com/rallyforbally