Madrid to pay tribute to Baltacha

The Bolton News: Elena Baltacha has died from cancer at the age of 30 Elena Baltacha has died from cancer at the age of 30

The world of tennis will pay tribute to former British number one Elena Baltacha with a minute's silence at the Mutua Madrid Open on Monday night.

Baltacha died of liver cancer early on Sunday morning at the age of 30.

The tribute will be held on Centre Court at the Manolo Santana Stadium before the match between Carla Suarez Navarro and Yvonne Meusburger, which is due to start at 2000 local time (1900 BST).

Andy Murray, a childhood friend of Baltacha's, is expected to be one of a number of high-profile players in attendance.

Baltacha was diagnosed with the illness in January, just two months after retiring from tennis and only weeks after she married her long-time coach Nino Severino.

"We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined Bally," Severino said in a statement released by her family.

"She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness."

The statement said Baltacha died peacefully at home.

Baltacha had retired from professional tennis last November after a career which had seen her ranked as the British number one for 132 weeks, from December 2009 to June 2012.

Her highest singles ranking was 49, which she reached in September 2010.

The Lawn Tennis Association said in a statement: "Today British Tennis mourns the loss of one of our own.

"The news of the death of Elena Baltacha, one of the shining lights of British women's tennis of recent generations, is devastating to everyone who has ever had the privilege to know her, play against her, or call her a friend or team-mate.

"It leaves a huge hole within our sport. Bally gave new meaning to the word 'fighter'.

"She fought tirelessly during her career against opposition on court, and never gave in to the struggles she endured off it."

Baltacha had dealt with a liver condition - primary sclerosing cholangitis - diagnosed at the age of 19, throughout her career with medication and regular blood tests.

Despite the disruption it caused, she went on to win 11 singles titles, reached the third round of Wimbledon in 2002 and the same stage of the Australian Open in 2005 and 2010.

Baltacha represented Great Britain for 11 years in the Fed Cup and also played in the London Olympics in 2012 but, after struggling with injury and illness during her career, ankle problems forced her to retire.

She had then turned her attention to coaching junior tennis players at her Ipswich-based academy prior to her illness.

The previously announced 'Rally for Bally' - a fundraising series due to be played in June - will now go ahead in her memory.

Wimbledon champion Murray had committed to play in the event along with the likes of Martina Navratilova and Tim Henman, and the money raised will go to the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

Stacey Allaster, chairman and chief executive of the WTA, said: "We are deeply grieved to lose our friend Elena Baltacha in her battle with cancer.

"Elena's journey was never an easy one and yet she consistently showed her strength, good humour and indomitable spirit."

ATP executive chairman and president Chris Kermode wrote in a statement: "The thoughts and condolences of the ATP players, tournaments and staff go out to Elena's husband, Nino, her family, friends and all who knew her.

"Elena battled against adversity throughout her career and she will be remembered for her fighting spirit and as a role model for all."

Comments (1)

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12:36pm Mon 5 May 14

give-up says...

A true inspiration and a desperately sad loss. RIP Elena.
A true inspiration and a desperately sad loss. RIP Elena. give-up
  • Score: 0
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