'A true role model' - Tributes paid to Elena Baltacha

05 May 2014 / 11:05

Tributes have been paid to former British tennis number one Elena Baltacha, who died yesterday after a short battle with liver cancer.

Baltacha, who was just 30, was British number one from December 2009 to June 2012 - 132 weeks - and won 11 International Tennis Federation titles, breaking into the world's top 50 in 2010.

She played 39 times for Great Britain in the Fed Cup and was part of Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics, when she was also a torchbearer in the build-up to the Games.

“We have lost a shining light from the heart of British tennis - a true role model, a great competitor and a wonderful friend," said Iain Bates, the Lawn Tennis Association's head of women's tennis.

"We have so many special memories to cherish, but this leaves a gaping hole for everybody in both British and women's tennis, and words simply cannot express how saddened we are by this news."

Baltacha retired from professional tennis last November after struggling to overcome a series of injuries and was diagnosed with her illness in January, only weeks after she married her long-term coach Nino Severino.

"We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined Bally," said Severino, 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."

The thoughts of everyone connected to Team GB and the British Olympic Association are with the Baltacha family at this time.

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