IPSWICH, England - Elena Baltacha, who was diagnosed with liver cancer in mid-January of this year, passed away peacefully on Sunday morning, surrounded by friends and family. She was just 30.
Just two months after retiring from professional tennis and just a few weeks after marrying longtime coach and partner Nino Severino, the former British No.1 was diagnosed with the disease, and after months of battling it finally succumbed to it at her home in the early hours of Sunday, May 4, 2014.
Statement from Nino Severino, Elena's husband:
"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."
Statement from Stacey Allaster, Chairman & CEO of the WTA:
"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 humor and indomitable spirit.
"The WTA was blessed to have such a champion compete and represent women's tennis; Elena passionately represented Great Britain on the world stage and her personal commitment to excellence inspired us all throughout her career to strive for more, to be more, to give more. The loss of this special person will have a significant impact on her fellow competitors who not only respected her, but more importantly, loved her. 'Bally' was such a caring human being, always putting others before herself, and a warm, fun person. A shining example of her commitment to looking out for the welfare of others is the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis, which she established so that children from disadvantaged backgrounds could learn to play the game she loved so dearly.
"I am honored that I had the opportunity to know Elena, to call her 'Bally' as her friends do. She was a gift that was taken from us too soon; she will be deeply missed. On behalf of the WTA family of players and tournaments, our hearts and prayers go out to her loving and supportive husband Nino, her parents, brother and friends on this terribly sad day."
Baltacha 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 it have pledged to carry on the work she started. And the 'Rally Against Cancer - Rally For Bally' event will now be held in her memory on June 15 to raise funds for the Royal Marsden cancer charity and Elena Baltacha Foundation.
The LTA wrote on their website: '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 teammate.' To read the full article on the LTA's official website, please click here.