Elena Baltacha dead: Tributes pour in for tennis star who has died of liver cancer, aged 30

The former British women's tennis number one died from liver disease aged 30, after being diagnosed with the illness in January

Tributes have flooded in for Elena Baltacha, the former British women’s tennis number one, who died aged 30 on Sunday.

The sports star, who was diagnosed with liver cancer in January, passed away peacefully at her home, her family said in a statement.

Her husband Nino Severino, whom she had married just months before her death, said he was “heartbroken beyond words”.

The Ukrainian-born Ms Baltacha announced her diagnosis in March, vowing to fight the cancer “with everything I have”.

She had been diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver condition which affects the immune system, at just 19 but had managed the condition throughout her career with medication and regular blood tests.

But she fell ill in January, just months after retiring from tennis.

 

On Twitter, people that knew, loved and admired Ms Baltacha expressed their sadness and grief.

US former world number one tennis player Billie Jean King, who won 20 titles at Wimbledon, said of her fellow tennis player:

 

Paul Annacone, former men's head coach at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), tweeted:

 

And television presenter Clare Balding also paid her respects:

 

 

Labour leader Ed Miliband offered his condolences:

 

As did Olympic champion track cyclist Chris Hoy:

 

Other tennis players to pay their respects included former world number ones Chris Evert  and Martina Navratilova: 

 

Martina Navratilova also said: “Elena Baltacha was a great fighter on the tennis court.

“We as tennis players always worry about our bodies, trying to keep injuries at bay.

“But cancer - you can't prevent that and you can't rehab it either and no matter how much of a fighter you are, sometimes cancer wins.

"Elena was taken from the world much too soon - fighting to the end and we will miss her.“

Childhood friend and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray is expected to make a statement, his agent said. A post on his official website announced the tragic news of Ms Baltacha's death.

In a statement released by her family, Mr Severino said: “We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined Bally.

"She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness."

The previously announced “Rally for Bally” - a fundraiser due to be played in June - will now go ahead in Ms Baltacha's memory.

Murray had committed to play in the event alongside 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.

Additional reporting by agencies

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Tennis stars turn out in support of cancer-stricken Baltacha
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