Former British tennis number one Elena Baltacha has died of liver cancer at the age of 30.
World top 50 star Baltacha, who was born in Ukraine, moved to Scotland with her family and impressed crowds at Wimbledon as well as representing Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics.
She retired from the sport in November 2013 after a knee injury and continued troubles with illness.
Nino Severino, Elena’s husband said in a statement published on Andy Murray’s website:
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.”
Before being struck down with illness, Elena 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.
The Rally Against Cancer – Rally For Bally will now be held in her memory on 15th June 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.
Tributes to the player have been paid from sports stars across the world, including Britain’s current number one Laura Robson, and former world champion Billie Jean King
Impossibly sad. Forever a teammate. Sweet dreams Bally.
— Laura Robson (@laurarobson5) May 5, 2014
Saddened to hear about Elena Baltacha's passing. My fondest memory w/Bally was sharing a wonderful chat when we met the Queen at @Wimbledon
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) May 5, 2014
Rest in Peace, beautiful Elena Baltacha…No words…Thoughts and prayers…
— Chris Evert (@ChrissieEvert) May 5, 2014