Elena Sergeevna Baltacha
14 August 1983 – 4 May 2014
Elena Sergeevna Baltacha was a Ukrainian-born Scottish professional tennis player. Being a four-time winner of the Aegon Award, she was also a long-term British No. 1, a position she held intermittently from 2002 to 2012. However, due to her absence from competition due to knee surgery, she dropped down the world rankings and at the time of her retirement on 18 November 2013, she was ranked as the world No. 221 and British No. 6. Her career high ranking of World No. 49 was achieved in September 2010.
Over the course of her career she won eleven ITF (International Tennis Federation) singles titles and four ITF doubles titles. She was also a runner-up in three ITF events in singles and four in doubles. In 2010, Baltacha had victories over top 10 players, including two victories over Li Na (the second of which came via retirement) and one against Francesca Schiavone, who at the time was the reigning French Open champion. In 2011 Baltacha won her highest ranked tournament on the ITF tour, the 2011 Aegon Nottingham Challenge.
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Baltacha moved with her family following a transfer of football clubs by her professional footballer father, Sergei. He represented the Soviet Union and played in the United Kingdom for Ipswich Town, St. Johnstone and Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Her mother Olga represented the Soviet Union in both the pentathlon and heptathlon at the Olympic Games. Her brother Sergei played football for St. Mirren and Millwall.
After arriving at Heathrow Airport on 13 January 1989, Baltacha moved to Ipswich where her father was to play football for the next year before moving to Perth, Scotland, where she grew up and spent some of her teenage years, before moving to Paisley, Scotland and attending Castlehead High School.
Resident in Ipswich, on 8 December 2013, a month after her retirement from tennis, she married her coach Nino Severino, a retired professional tennis player turned multi-sports specialist in mental and movement training coach, who also works with Ipswich Town F.C. and in coaching martial arts athletes. In 2010 the couple had formed the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis, which is based around the facilities at both Culford School near Bury St Edmunds, and Ipswich Sports Club where she trained during her career.
At the age of 19 she was diagnosed with the liver condition primary sclerosing cholangitis and in June 2010 she became patron of the Children's Liver Disease Foundation. Baltacha was diagnosed with liver cancer in January 2014, just a few weeks after her marriage to tennis coach Nino Severino. She died from the disease on 4 May 2014 at the age of 30. A host of ATP and WTA tennis players past and present came together on the centre court at the Madrid Open as a mark of respect for Baltacha. Baltacha's funeral took place on the 19th May and was attended by Tim Henman, Annabel Croft, Laura Robson, Jo Durie and Judy Murray among others. Mourners were asked to wear bright colours instead of black and to donate to Rally for Bally rather than buying flowers. The money was split equally between the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis, which she set up to help disadvantaged children take up the sport.
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