British tennis’ Baltacha battled hard and left a shining light

Two months after calling time on her career last November, and only weeks after marrying her long-time coach Nino Severino, she was diagnosed with liver cancer and a statement released by her family Monday said she died peacefully at home.
Elena Baltacha of Great Britain poses for the camera at the National Tennis Centre on November 29, 2010 in Roehampton, England. Julian Finney / Getty Images
Elena Baltacha of Great Britain poses for the camera at the National Tennis Centre on November 29, 2010 in Roehampton, England. Julian Finney / Getty Images

Battling Bally. That is how the world will remember Elena Baltacha, the former British No 1, who died on Sunday, at age 30, after losing her fight against liver cancer.

Diagnosed at age 19 with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver condition that compromises the immune system, Baltacha fought through her illness, reaching a career-high ranking of No 49 and winning 11 singles titles. She was the British No 1 for 132 weeks and reached the last 32 of a grand slam tournament three times.

But two months after calling time on her career last November, and only weeks after marrying her long-time coach Nino Severino, she was diagnosed with liver cancer and a statement released by her family yesterday said she died peacefully at home.

Jo Durie, Baltacha’s former coach, talked about her struggles on the court because of her liver condition. “It was very draining and tiring for her because she was battling her liver condition as well as pushing her body to the limits as an athlete,” she said. “I have this image of ‘Battling Bally’ giving her all on court in every match.”

Baltacha was a popular figure in the game, highlighted by the tributes that poured in and a statement from the Lawn Tennis Association’s head of women’s tennis Iain Bates, which said: “We have lost a shining light from the heart of British tennis – a true role model, a great competitor and a wonderful friend ... this leaves a gaping hole for everybody in both British and women’s tennis.”

A shining light that burnt out too soon. RIP Battling Bally.

arizvi@thenational.ae

Published: May 5, 2014 04:00 AM

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