December 4, 2021

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Too young; Baltacha gone at age 30

The tennis world was saddened Sunday night to learn of the death of Elena Baltacha, the Russian-born Brit who died of liver cancer Sunday in the U.K. She was just 30 years old.

Here are some photos from the Open Court archives, taken during a career that ended last year.

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The statement from the family, via husband Nino Severino:

“We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined Bally. She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness.”

Baltacha was never a star, but she was a good one, getting into the top 50 and proudly representing her adopted country in Fed Cup for a decade.

She married her coach, Nino Severino in 2012, and started an academy for young disadvantaged kids in 2010, on which she focused all her attention after her retirement from tennis.

But long before that, she’d overcome so many health issues to be the best she could be.

Born in Kiev into an athletic family, she turned pro in 1997, when she was just 14, and retired last November.

In the days before players like Heather Watson and Laura Robson came along, she proudly carried the mantle as the British No. 1.

At age 19, as she was making her first big steps in the pros, she was diagnosed with a liver condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis, for which the worst-case scenario is an eventual cancer of the liver.

She had major surgery after Wimbledon in 2003 to try to get at the root of the issue, and that ended her season.

She fought back from other injuries, too. Baltacha had surgery on a disc in her back, on her foot and, at the end of her career, was battling a knee injury.

Basically, she was a fighter all her life. But the biggest fight was one she couldn’t win. The liver cancer diagnosis was announced just in January; four months later, she was gone.

If you want to contribute to the Rally for Bally, with proceeds going to her academy, the link is here. There had been a fundraiser planned for June 15, which will go ahead in her memory.

Those in the U.K. can also donate via mobile:

Plenty of Twitter tributes, of course. You hope that each one also makes a nice donation to the cause.