Former British No. 1 Elena Baltacha has died of liver cancer at the age of 30, it was announced on Sunday.
Born in Ukraine and brought up in Scotland, Baltacha revealed she had the illness in March, having being diagnosed in January.
Baltacha, who was British No. 1 for nearly three years, only retired from professional tennis in 2013.
“We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined Bally,” said her husband Nino Severino in a statement published by the BBC.
The daughter of Sergei Baltacha, who played professional football for Ipswich Town and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, she was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver condition which compromises the immune system, aged 19.
Despite her illness and injury problems, she reached the third round of the Australian Open in 2005 and 2010, and achieved a career-high world ranking of 49.
She won 11 singles titles, made the third round of Wimbledon in 2002 and was a member of Great Britain’s Fed Cup team for 11 years.
Top tennis stars including Andy Murray, Martina Navratilova, Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski, Jamie Murray and Heather Watson will take part in “Rally For Bally”, a cancer fundraising event that will now be held in her memory on June 15.
The tennis world reacted with shock and sadness on Monday.
“Saddened to hear about Elena Baltacha’s passing,” 18-time Grand Slam champion Billie Jean King tweeted.
“My fondest memory with Bally was sharing a wonderful chat when we met the Queen at Wimbledon.”
Britain’s current No. 1 Laura Robson added on Twitter: “Impossibly sad. Forever a team-mate. Sweet dreams Bally.”
A host of other leading players past and present such as Chris Evert, Lindsey Davenport, Ana Ivanovic and Petra Kvitova also expressed their sadness via social media. — AFP