Elena Baltacha funeral: Mourners asked to wear 'bright colours' as requested by former British Number One ahead of private funeral

Friends and family will pay their respects to Baltacha who lost her battle with liver cancer a fortnight ago

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Mourners will gather to pay their respects to Elena Baltacha at a private funeral for the former British number one later today.

Baltacha was diagnosed with liver cancer in January, just two months after retiring from tennis and weeks after marrying her long-time coach Nino Severino.

She passed away a fortnight ago, aged 30.

Those attending the funeral in Ipswich have been asked to wear their "brightest colours" at the request of Baltacha, who "did not want everyone in black".

Her family have also asked that instead of flowers, donations be made to Rally For Bally, with funds split equally between Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis, which she set up to help disadvantaged children take up the sport.

British number one Laura Robson and Great Britain Fed Cup captain Judy Murray led a tennis masterclass for children at Baltacha's academy on Sunday.

More than 70 children aged between five and 13 took part in the sessions and Robson said: "It's been amazing and I think all the kids really enjoyed themselves.

"Bally's been so passionate about the whole thing and it is such a shame that she is not here to see how amazing today has been."

Baltacha's former doubles partner Anne Keothavong, GB Davis Cup captain Leon Smith and LTA head of women's tennis Iain Bates also took part.

Murray, who first met Baltacha as a junior in Scotland and worked closely with her as Fed Cup captain, insists the academy will help disadvantaged children take up tennis for many years to come.

"We want to make sure that Bally is remembered, and we want to make sure that the academy goes from strength to strength," Murray said.

"All of the fundraising that we are trying to do through Rally for Bally will allow us to make the academy sustainable for a very long time."

Baltacha retired from professional tennis after a career which saw her ranked as Britain's top player for 132 weeks, from December 2009 to June 2012.

Her highest singles world ranking was 49, which she reached in September 2010.

Baltacha was diagnosed with a liver condition - primary sclerosing cholangitis - at the age of 19 and managed the disease throughout her career with medication and blood tests.

Despite the disruption the illness caused, Baltacha won 11 singles titles, made the third round of Wimbledon in 2002 and reached the same stage of the Australian Open in 2005 and 2010.