British tennis player Elena Baltacha dies aged 30
Baltacha revealed she had liver cancer in March
The Ukraine-born star was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis at 19
Baltacha spent 132 weeks as British No. 1 between December 2009 and June 2012
The tennis world is in mourning after Elena Baltacha died at the age of 30 after losing her battle with liver cancer.
Baltacha, who was born in Ukraine, had retired from the sport in November 2013.
“We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined Bally,” read a statement from Nino Severino, Baltacha’s husband and long-time coach.
“She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness.”
Aged 19, Baltacha was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a condition that effects the bile ducts and the liver.
Baltacha turned pro in 1997 and spent 132 weeks as British No. 1 between December 2009 and June 2012.
She won 11 International Tennis Federation Pro Circuit titles, reached the third round of Wimbledon in 2002 and advanced to the third round of the Australian Open as recently as 2010.
In September 2010 she reached a career-high 49th in the world rankings.
The final event of her playing career was the 2013 U.S. Open last September, where she was defeated during the pre-tournament qualifying competition.
Baltacha’s father Sergei was a footballer who played for the Soviet Union at the 1982 World Cup.
“She was fighter during her days in sport and she is a fighter now,” the former Dynamo Kiev player told CNN just weeks before the death of his daughter.
“I would like to say thanks to everyone who is support(ing) us, sending message, emails, calling us to give us support or offer any advice or you know.
“Most importantly we are all together, fighting all together.”
A charity event, called The Rally Against Cancer – Rally For Bally, will be held on June 15 with a host of tennis greats set to turn out in support.
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and 18-time grand slam winner Martina Navratilova are among the names set to take to the court at London’s Queen’s Club.
A number of tennis legends took to social media to pay their respects to Baltacha with American Billie Jean King tweeting: “Saddened to hear about Elena Baltacha’s passing.
“My fondest memory w/Bally was sharing a wonderful chat when we met the Queen at Wimbledon.”
King’s compatriot Chris Evert also paid her respects, saying, “Rest in Peace, beautiful Elena Baltacha…No words…Thoughts and prayers…”