Tennis world mourns as former British No1 Baltacha dies, aged 30, from liver cancer

“A GAPING hole has been left in tennis”, the Lawn Tennis Association said yesterday, after former British No1 Elena Baltacha died, aged 30.

Baltacha battled the liver condition primary sclerosing cholangitis– an inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts – since the age of 19 and was diagnosed with liver cancer in January, two months after her retirement.

LTA’s head of women’s tennis Iain Bates said: “We have lost a shining light from the heart of British tennis, a true role model, a great competitor and a wonderful friend.

“We have so many special memories to cherish, but this leaves a gaping hole for everybody in both British and women’s tennis and words simply cannot express how saddened we are by this news.”

A “Rally for Bally” on 15 June to raise funds for Baltacha’s tennis academy and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity was planned before her passing and is to be held in her honour at Queen’s Club, Birmingham and Eastbourne.

The most decorated player in women’s tennis, Martina Navratilova, is among the star names set to take part, alongside Andy Murray and Tim Henman.

Ukraine-born Baltacha, daughter of Ipswich footballer Sergei, won 11 ITF singles titles, most recently at the Aegon Nottingham Challenge last June.

She spent 132 weeks as British No1 and reached her highest world ranking of 49 in 2010.

She described competing at the London 2012 Olympics as “a dream come true”.

BALLY’S BACKGROUND
■ Born in Kiev, but moved to England aged five. Later grew up in Scotland

■ British No1 for 132 weeks

■ Reached a career high singles ranking of world No49

■ Won 11 ITF singles titles and four doubles titles

■ Reached third round of grand slam singles tournaments three times and mixed doubles once

■ Part of Scotland’s Commonwealth Youth Games silver medal winning team in 2000

■ Represented Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics

■ British Fed Cup team regular