Baltacha may need transplant
Elena Baltacha may need a transplant after being diagnosed with cancer of the liver, a health charity warned.
She was diagnosed at the age of 19 with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver condition which compromises the immune system.
Baltacha, 30, said in a statement: "I have recently been diagnosed with cancer of the liver. I'm currently undergoing treatment and fighting this illness with everything I have."
Ukraine-born, she won 11 singles titles, reached the third round of Wimbledon in 2002 and the same stage of the Australian Open in 2005 and 2010.
Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: "The chances are she will have known for a while that she was at risk of liver cancer because of her PSC (primary sclerosing cholangitis).
"It's a genetic illness that infects your bile duct. You get a back flow of bile into your liver and that causes scarring in your liver. As the liver is more scarred it will be so damaged that you will have cirrhosis.
"Normally when we talk about liver cirrhosis people think about alcohol, but this is definitely not related to alcohol.
"I would imagine she will have a range of treatments. It will be a very difficult time for her and it may be that she eventually needs to have a liver transplant."
According to the British Liver Trust, liver disease is now the fifth biggest cause of death in England and Wales, after heart disease, cancer, stroke and respiratory disease.
Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, said: "We're very sad to hear Elena has been diagnosed with liver cancer. If anyone has questions about the disease, or any other type of cancer, they can visit our website or call our team of cancer nurses free on 0808 800 40 40."
Baltacha reached a career-high ranking of 49 in 2010 and was British number one for 132 weeks between 2009 and 2012.
However, she struggled with injury and illness during her career and retired from the sport in November last year.
She can look to Great Britain Davis Cup player Ross Hutchins for inspiration.
The 29-year-old returned to action earlier this year with doubles partner Colin Fleming after recovering from Hodgkins Lymphoma - a form of cancer.
Hutchins was diagnosed with the illness in December 2012 but announced he was in remission in July.