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MATCHDAY: Elena Baltacha charity collection happening today at Portman Road

PUBLISHED: 19:56 16 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:05 18 August 2018

Cole Skuse taking part in a tennis session with the Elena Baltacha Foundation  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Cole Skuse taking part in a tennis session with the Elena Baltacha Foundation Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Stars of Ipswich Town Football Club put down their boots and picked up tennis rackets to help promote a matchday collection for the Elena Baltacha Foundation happening today as the Tractor Boys take on Aston Villa.

The charity was set up by, former British number one, Elena to help under-privileged children take up sport, she unfortunately passed away in 2014 and her husband and coach Nino Severino took up the reigns of running the foundation.

Nino has strong ties to the Tractors and he invited stars Andre Dozzell and his dad Jason Dozzell, along with Cole Skuse, to play some tennis against the foundation kids at the Ipswich Sports Centre to promote the collection which will be happening this Saturday (August 18).

Nino, who ran the foundation alongside his wife, said: “To be honest with you for the last four years I couldn’t walk out onto these courts without it breaking my heart.

“It’s only been the last six months where I’ve been able to come out again, I’m not the first person to go through this and I won’t be the last but the children make it much easier for me.”

Ipswich Town players Cole Skuse, Andre Dozzell and former Ipswich player Jason Dozeell took part in a coaching session with the Elena Baltacha Foundation  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNIpswich Town players Cole Skuse, Andre Dozzell and former Ipswich player Jason Dozeell took part in a coaching session with the Elena Baltacha Foundation Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Nino’s wife battled liver cancer before passing in May 2014, her and Nino had great hopes for the foundation and were keen to use it to help impoverished children to take up tennis.

“We always talked about getting a child to take up tennis and them making it to the world tour,” said Nino.

“That was our dream.”

Nino was keen to emphasise the key role the club has played in supporting the foundation and thanked Andre and the other players for coming out to play.

Andre Dozzell taking part in a tennis session with the Elena Baltacha Foundation  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNAndre Dozzell taking part in a tennis session with the Elena Baltacha Foundation Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Nino said: “It’s really important to have them behind me and the foundation.”

“Especially because of mine and Elena’s history with the town, she grew up here as a little girl so the relationship between the club and the foundation is very poignant and very strong.

“It was great to have them all come along, the players had some fun, the kids had a great time, everyone’s a winner.”

“I took a bit of a battering from the kids,” said Cole Skuse, who plays in midfield for Ipswich.

Andre Dozzell taking part in a tennis session with the Elena Baltacha Foundation  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNAndre Dozzell taking part in a tennis session with the Elena Baltacha Foundation Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“It was fun to come down here today, it’s such a comfortable environment to come into and the foundation does some vital work.”

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