Elena Baltacha dead: 'Rally for Bally' fundraiser to go ahead as Ross Hutchins pays tribute

The former British number one lost her battle with cancer yesterday at the age of 30

Ross Hutchins has paid tribute to former British number one Elena Baltacha, who lost her battle with liver cancer on Sunday at the age of 30.

Baltacha was diagnosed with the illness in January, just two months after retiring from tennis and only weeks after she married her long-time coach Nino Severino.

A statement released by her family said Baltacha died peacefully at home.

The previously announced 'Rally for Bally' - a fundraiser due to be played in June - will now go ahead in her memory.

Her childhood friend Andy Murray had committed to play in the event along with the likes of Martina Navratilova and Tim Henman, and the money raised will go to the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

Great Britain Davis Cup player Hutchins, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in December 2012 and underwent six months of chemotherapy at the Royal Marsden Hospital.

The 29-year-old doubles specialist, who announced the news he was in remission last July, has stayed involved with tennis, organising the 'Rally for Bally' and helping out as an analyst for the Davis Cup team.

He was appointed the new tournament director of London's Aegon Championships in March.

Hutchins paid tribute to Baltacha and told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I know she was battling hard against this disease in tennis and everything in her whole life with Nino, with her family.

"They're all fantastic people, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all of them.

"It's incredibly sad news but we'll remember her for a long time.

"I heard she was very ill and she was struggling for a while, but Elena was a fighter and we always knew that.

"Whether it comes down to Fed Cup matches, big matches, or with the disease - everyone knew she was a fighter and we always thought she could get through this battle.

"She'd got through many battles in the past, she'd been battling liver problems her whole life so we thought she'd get through this but I did hear that it wasn't looking that positive at one point."

 

In 2013 Hutchins organised the Rally Against Cancer charity matches, which were held on the finals day of the Aegon Championships and featured the likes of Murray, Ivan Lendl and Henman, as well as London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Hutchins said: "Last year we did the Rally Against Cancer and it was a fantastic event for me personally and a lot of people involved in tennis and those fighting against cancer.

"I'm doing well, I'm feeling strong. I'm back playing on tour. I'm feeling healthy again and I managed to overcome the illness - but cancer is a very tough illness and for some people, it just gets the better of us.

"I'm very fortunate, I feel very lucky that I'm able to be back on court playing tennis again now so able to look forward and I'm looking forward to this event in memory for Elena.

"We all wanted it to lift Elena, we always thought that she was going to be recovering strong at that point but now it's a special event for us to hold in memory of Elena.

"She's special to everyone involved in the event."

He added: "We're going to play three mixed doubles matches across our British tennis tournaments on June 15 - which is the finals day of the Queens Club and the finals day up in Birmingham, and the day before the Eastbourne tournament starts.

"The three mixed doubles will involve myself, Andy Murray, Martina Navratilova, Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski, Jonny Marray, Jamie Murray. We've got Heather Watson - fantastic names - Laura Robson is going to be involved.

"It's going to be a fantastic day all celebrating Elena's life and her tennis career and her whole family and how special a person she was.

"We will be raising money for the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis and for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, all for Elena and in her memory and she'll be watching down on us realising how special a day (it is) and how we're all thinking about her."

PA

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