Elena Baltacha, a former top-50 professional tennis player, who had been fighting liver cancer since retiring from the game, died on Sunday. She was 30.
The former British No. 1 died peacefully surrounded by family and friends, the Women’s Tennis Association said on its website. Baltacha, who represented Britain at the 2012 London Olympics, was diagnosed with the illness in January, 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. “She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness.”
“Elena’s journey was never an easy one and yet she consistently showed her strength, good humour and indomitable spirit,” WTA chairman Stacey Allaster said.
“We have lost a shining light from the heart of British tennis — a true role model, a great competitor and a wonderful friend,” former Fed Cup coach Iain Bates said. “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.”
Baltacha had already planned a tennis charity event in June, “Rally for Bally,” to raise money for a cancer hospital and her tennis academy. It will go ahead in her memory, with competitors, including childhood friend Andy Murray, Martina Navratilova and Tim Henman.