Judy Murray’s tribute to ‘gem’ Elena Baltacha

Tennis Correspondent

Judy Murray described Elena Baltacha as “one in a million” after the former British No 1’s death from liver cancer on Sunday aged just 30. Murray had known Baltacha since her days as Scotland’s national coach and was her Fed Cup captain.

The mother of Andy and Jamie Murray was too upset to talk after taking a masterclass of junior players in  London yesterday with Head, the clothing and equipment manufacturer. However, she issued a statement in which she paid tribute to Baltacha, who married her coach, Nino Severino, in December and was diagnosed with cancer the following month.

“I don’t have the words to say what an incredible person Bally was, how loved she was or what an inspiration she will continue to be to  everyone who met her,”  Murray said.

“This is an awful loss for tennis, for all of us who knew and loved her and, most of all, for Nino and her family. My thoughts are, of course, with them. She was one in a million and an  absolute gem.”

Andy Murray, meanwhile, will play his first match for a month at the Madrid Masters this evening when he faces Nicolas Almagro. Although the Spaniard struggled to beat Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 yesterday, he is a top performer on clay and beat Rafael Nadal in Barcelona last month. All 12 of his titles have come on the surface. Nadal tackles Juan Monaco this afternoon.

Roger Federer was in the same half of the draw as  Murray and Nadal but pulled out yesterday in order to be with his wife, Mirka, at the birth of their third child. The Swiss star’s comment that he wanted to be with her “during these next few exciting weeks for our family” suggested he will also miss next week’s Rome Masters and could even skip the French Open, which starts in 18 days.

Maria Sharapova came back from the brink against  Christina McHale to reach the third round in Madrid. The  Russian trailed 4-1 in the third set before recovering to win 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Li Na, the world No 2, beat her fellow Chinese, Zheng Jie, 6-2, 6-3.

Britain’s Heather Watson returned from two months out with a shoulder injury to beat Giulia Gatto-Monticone 6-4, 7-6 in the International Tennis Federation tournament in the south of France.

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