Andy Murray celebrated his win at the Madrid Open by paying a heartfelt tribute to the late Elena Baltacha, the former British number one tennis player who died of liver cancer on Sunday aged just 30.
The Scottish sportsman, who defeated Nicolás Almagro in three straight sets, walked over to a TV camera and signed the lens ‘Bally’, drawing a heart around her nickname.
The Murray family are long-time friends of the Baltachas, and Elena was coached by his mother, Judy, from a young age.
“When you get that sort of news you realise that it [tennis] isn’t everything,” he said of the moment he found out Baltacha had passed away.
“I mean, really it isn’t. Last year with Ross [Hutchins, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2013], that was tough. Thankfully he managed to come through it, but then over the last couple of weeks it’s been the same sort of thing.
“You do realise how lucky you are, and that the most important thing is your health. The more time that passes, the more people will celebrate everything that Bally did because she was a great character, a great person, and she got everything she could out of her potential.
“Everyone wants to be Wimbledon champion and No 1 in the world, but not everyone can have that. The best thing you can do is achieve your potential and I believe she did that. So that’s big credit to her.”
Both Andy and his brother, Jamie, will be among a host of players who will take part in a charity tournament, named Rally for Bally, on 15 June.
“It’s a horrible situation,” he continued. “But the only thing we can do is try to help her family and her husband, and try to raise as much money as we can for her academy because that will be her legacy.
“She wanted to help kids. As soon as she stopped playing she got straight into the academy. So hopefully that’s something we can help keep going and that’s what the Rally for Bally is about.
“It [Baltacha’s death] is something that every single day you’re going to think about right now. I had had a bit of an idea what was going on for a few weeks, so in some ways you’re prepared for the worst. But it’s just tough, tough for everyone. I just wanted to go out and play and win and try and enjoy it. But it’s not easy.”