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BBC documentary celebrates life and career of Ipswich star Elena Baltacha

PUBLISHED: 16:00 25 November 2019 | UPDATED: 08:13 29 November 2019

Elena  poses for the camera at the National Tennis Centre on November 29, 2010 in Roehampton. Picture: JULIAN FINNEY

Elena poses for the camera at the National Tennis Centre on November 29, 2010 in Roehampton. Picture: JULIAN FINNEY

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A moving BBC documentary charting the extraordinary life and career of feminist icon and role model Elena Baltcha is to be aired next month.

Elena's husband and coach, Nino Severino, has been heavily involved in the film. Picture: PURPLETVElena's husband and coach, Nino Severino, has been heavily involved in the film. Picture: PURPLETV

The film gives a unique insight into the woman behind the racquet; the daughter, sister and friend who was loved so dearly - and her tragic death at the age of just 30.

Nino Severino, tennis coach and husband of the late Ipswich star, is among those interviewed for the BBC Alba film.

"It's something I see as a privilege," Nino admitted.

"I had an incredible life with Elena and I cherish every second of it despite it ending because of tragic events.

Heather Lockhart, tennis player, being interviewed for the film. Picture: PURPLETVHeather Lockhart, tennis player, being interviewed for the film. Picture: PURPLETV

"I think how lucky I was - we were inseparable - and we spent more time together in those 10 years than other people do in a lifetime.

"Now it's all about looking at her legacy and what she's done."

Bally, as she was affectionately known, suffered from a liver condition for many years and in January 2014 she was diagnosed with liver cancer by doctors at Ipswich Hospital, She died in May that year, just months after marrying Nino.

Many of her closest friends and family have opened up for the first time about her illness and the battles she faced to achieve her goals, including being chosen to represent Team GB in the 2012 Olympics and setting up the Elena Baltacha Tennis Academy in Ipswich.

Anna and Alex Baltacha are Elena's niece and nephew and act out a dramatic reconstruction in the film. Picture: PURPLETVAnna and Alex Baltacha are Elena's niece and nephew and act out a dramatic reconstruction in the film. Picture: PURPLETV

Nino said: "She didn't want me to speak about the day to day issues her liver condition represented but now I can talk about how hard it was for her and what it takes to become a champion with all of that going on.

"So many people loved her and are devoted to her, and now there are still new people coming forward to tell us how they have fallen in love with her and who she was.

"It's an amazing story but a tragic backdrop," he added.

Match archive is used to tell the story of how Elena made it into the top 50 ranked players in the world.

Christine Lockhart, tennis player, being interviewed for the film. Picture: PURPLETVChristine Lockhart, tennis player, being interviewed for the film. Picture: PURPLETV

The tennis star, who was ranked number one in Britain several times, was born in Kiev in 1983, three years before the Chernobyl disaster, and moved to Suffolk as a child when her father Sergei came to play for Ipswich Town.

Later they moved to Scotland and for many years it was here that she considered home.

Writer, producer and director Margot McCuaig, said: "Elena Baltacha didn't just pursue her dreams she embodied them.

"As a Scottish national hero it is only just that her life should be celebrated in film and her achievements treasured as part of our rich cultural firmament."

Nino will be attending the premiere of Elena Baltacha in Glasgow next week and it will broadcast on BBC ALBA at 9pm on Sunday December 1. It will be repeated on Thursday December 5 at 10.15pm and Friday December 6 at 9pm.

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