Nino Severino: ‘I’ve never known strength like my Elena’s'

  • @PaulN54

As British tennis prepares to honour the memory of Elena Baltacha with charity mixed doubles at three venues tomorrow, the former British No 1’s husband has spoken publicly about her battle with liver cancer.

Nino Severino said Baltacha had never complained about her situation following her diagnosis earlier this year.

The couple had married in December, just weeks after Baltacha announced her retirement. Severino, who was also her coach, said she had felt unwell for a while.

“The medical people couldn’t seem to understand why,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “The symptoms she was showing didn’t seem to indicate anything with the liver. She had lots of tests. They all came back clear. She had this really, really bad cough. In January we went to a big do in London. We came back and she had a pain in her side.”

Baltacha had had a liver condition since her teens, but the cancer diagnosis came out of the blue. “She was obviously very shocked and upset,” Severino said. “When we got [the diagnosis] I was beside myself. It was very difficult. I’ve never experienced strength [like that] in a human being.

“Lots of humans go through horrible, horrible things. This woman was 30 years old. She had just retired. She had so many amazing things at her feet. She never once, through the whole ordeal, ever complained. [She said] ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to everybody, treated everyone with respect. She always put my feelings first, before hers, never wanted me to be upset.”

Severino said the way she had handled the illness “really showed what a person she was”. He said it had been “a horrendous cancer” and added: “The fight was brutal.”

Andy Murray, a friend of Baltacha from their childhood years in Scotland, Ross Hutchins, Marion Bartoli and another female player yet to be announced will play a mixed-doubles match at Queens Club tomorrow as part of the “Rally for Bally”, which will benefit both the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and the charity attached to the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis, which she set up to provide tennis opportunities for disadvantaged children. Matches will also be played at Edgbaston and Eastbourne.