Today is one year since we tragically lost Elena Baltacha, the former long-term British No.1 women’s tennis player who at the young age of 30 lost her battle to the worst type of liver cancer that generally affects only people older than 50. While Elena’s former students from the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis tied yellow ribbons around her hometown of Ipswich, I’d like to commemorate Elena by sharing with you these lovely childhood photos of the tennis star.
Above is a five-year-old Elena, with her brother Sergei. How cute was she!
Family together in Ipswich 1989, about the time when they moved from Ukraine to the UK, when her soccer-playing father joined Ipswich Town from Dynamo Kiev: six-year-old Elena, her brother Sergei (later became a pro soccer player), mother Olga (former Russian pentathlete) and father Sergei.
Elena’s mother came close to playing the Olympic Games, but missed out on the opportunity due to an injury, while Elena later fulfilled that dream, participating in the 2012 London Olympics, the experience which remained one of the highlights of her career.
A moment of celebration: Elena and her brother in June 1991.
She had relatively little technical coaching yet she still made it into the Top 50 within a couple of years. I sometimes wonder what she could have done with a more technical coach and without a buggered liver.
All athletes have to deal with injuries and niggles, but when she had a week when she was feeling like an ordinary athlete, that was a luxury. She had problems with her back over a long period but by the end it was the liver that was affecting her.
The latest news is that the winner’s silver bowl at the new WTA event called the Aegon Open, to be played at Nottingham Tennis Centre from June 6 to June 14, has been named the Elena Baltacha Trophy. (photos via Daily Mail, Emily’s Twitter, Jimmie48)