Madrid tribute to Baltacha

  • Last Updated: May 5 2014, 20:43 BST

Andy Murray was among a number of players to stand on court and pay tribute to former British number one Elena Baltacha with a minute's silence at the Mutua Madrid Open on Monday.

Andy Murray, Jamie Murray and Caroline Wozniacki were among the players to pay tribute
Andy Murray, Jamie Murray and Caroline Wozniacki were among the players to pay tribute

Baltacha died of liver cancer early on Sunday morning aged 30.

A number of high-profile players, including Murray and his brother Jamie, observed the tribute on Centre Court at the Manolo Santana Stadium before the start of the tournament's night session.

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.

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

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

The statement said Baltacha died peacefully at home.

Baltacha had retired from professional tennis after a career which had seen her ranked as the British number one for 132 weeks, from December 2009 to June 2012.

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

Anne Keothavong, who retired last year and reached number 48 in the world, played doubles with Baltacha in a number of tournaments including Wimbledon and the London 2012 Olympics.

Keothavong wrote on Twitter: "Words cannot express how much I'll miss Bally. I feel so lucky to have shared so much with her and to have had her as my friend."

Baltacha had dealt with a liver condition - primary sclerosing cholangitis - diagnosed at the age of 19, throughout her career with medication and regular blood tests.

Despite the disruption it caused, she went on to win 11 singles titles and reached the third round of Wimbledon in 2002 and the same stage of the Australian Open in 2005 and 2010.

Baltacha represented Great Britain for 11 years in the Fed Cup but, after struggling with injury and illness during her career, ankle problems forced her to retire.

She had then turned her attention to coaching junior tennis players at her Ipswich-based academy prior to her illness.

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

Wimbledon champion Murray had committed to play in the event along with the likes of Martina Navratilova and Tim Henman.

The money raised will go to the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

The Lawn Tennis Association said in a statement: "The news of the death of Elena Baltacha, one of the shining lights of British women's tennis of recent generations, is devastating to everyone who has ever had the privilege to know her, play against her, or call her a friend or team-mate.

"It leaves a huge hole within our sport. Bally gave new meaning to the word 'fighter'.

"She fought tirelessly during her career against opposition on court, and never gave in to the struggles she endured off it."