Former tennis player Elena Baltacha dies

The Sports NetworkMay 5, 2014 

( - Elena Baltacha, a women's tennis player who retired last November, died Sunday after a battle with liver cancer. She was 30 years old.

According to the WTA website, Baltacha passed away Sunday surrounded by family and friends.

A native of the Ukraine who lived in England and played for Great Britain, Baltacha was diagnosed with the illness in January. She had just retired two months earlier and had married her long-time coach, Nino Severino.

"We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined 'Bally,'" said Severino in a statement posted by the WTA. "She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness."

Baltacha, a former British No. 1, represented Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics. She never won a WTA event and reached a high ranking of No. 49 in September 2010. Her best WTA results were four quarterfinal appearances and she reached the third round of three Grand Slam events (2002 Wimbledon, 2005 and 2010 Australian Open).

"The WTA was blessed to have such a champion compete and represent women's tennis," WTA CEO Stacey Allaster said in a statement. "Elena passionately represented Great Britain on the world stage and her personal commitment to excellence inspired us all throughout her career to strive for more, to be more, to give more. The loss of this special person will have a significant impact on her fellow competitors who not only respected her, but more importantly, loved her."

Baltacha, an 11-time singles winner on the ITF circuit, had started the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis, which helps children of all backgrounds learn and play tennis.

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