UK & World News
Elena Baltacha Dies After Cancer Battle
Former British tennis number one Elena Baltacha has died of liver cancer at the age of 30, her family have announced.
She died peacefully at her home early on Sunday morning, they said.
Baltacha was diagnosed with the illness in January, just two months after retiring from tennis and only weeks after she married her coach Nino Severino.
"We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined Bally," Severino said in a statement released by her family.
"She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness."
Kiev-born Baltacha retired from professional tennis last November after struggling to overcome a series of injuries.
The daughter of former Ipswich, St Mirren and Inverness footballer Sergei, she reached a career-high world ranking of 49 in 2010, and beat the likes of Li Na and Francesca Schiavone.
Baltacha was British number one from December 2009 to June 2012 - 132 weeks - and she won 11 International Tennis Federation titles.
She played 39 times for Britain in the Fed Cup from 2003 to 2012 and was also part of Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics.
She was diagnosed at the age of 19 with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver condition which compromises the immune system.
Her agent and friend Eleanor Preston told Sky News that Baltacha was a "fighter on and off court" and for that reason her "spirit and memory will live on".
"She was somebody who achieved an awful lot despite having a very serious liver condition which she struggled with since she was 19," she said.
"For that reason she should be held up as a real role model for everybody, for the way she overcame those obstacles and went on to achieve great things, and throughout it all without having the slightest ounce of pity or ego about it."
Among those from the Tennis world to pay tribute was former world number one and multiple Wimbledon champion Billy Jean King who said: "Saddened to hear about Elena Baltacha's passing.
"My fondest memory with Bally was sharing a wonderful chat when we met the Queen at Wimbledon."
The current women's British number one Laura Robson paid tribute to her "teammate" on Twitter.
She said: "Impossibly sad. Forever a teammate. Sweet dreams Bally."
The Lawn Tennis Association's head of women's tennis, Iain Bates, said in a statement: "Today we have lost a shining light from the heart of British tennis - a true role model, a great competitor and a wonderful friend."
In 2010, Baltacha launched the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis, which helps children from all backgrounds to learn and play tennis.
The previously announced Rally For Bally - a fundraiser due to be played in June - will still go ahead, now in her memory.
Her childhood friend Andy Murray had committed to play in the event along with Martina Navratilova and Tim Henman.