'Baltacha memory will live on'

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Judy Murray with Nino Severino follows the coffin of former tennis player Elena Baltacha into church. Judy Murray with Nino Severino follows the coffin of former tennis player Elena Baltacha into church.

Elena Baltacha's family and friends hope the former British number one has left a lasting legacy following her funeral in Ipswich on Monday.

Baltacha died on May 4 from liver cancer at the age of 30, less than six months after marrying her former coach Nino Severino and weeks after retiring from tennis.

In a statement, friends and family thanked everyone for the support received since the player affectionately known as Bally passed away two weeks ago.

"The tributes and love for Bally from around the world in the last two weeks and the way that everyone has got behind the Rally For Bally have made us so proud of her and how she touched people's lives," the statement read.

"We would like to thank everyone for their support. We know that her memory and her spirit will live on."

Severino was accompanied into St John's Church in Ipswich by Judy Murray, Baltacha's long-time mentor, as British tennis gathered to pay respect.

Players past and present - among them Laura Robson, Anne Keothavong, Annabel Croft, Tim Henman, Jeremy Bates and Jo Durie - attended the private service alongside coaches and Lawn Tennis Association officials including chief executive Michael Downey.

Andy Murray and his brother Jamie were not present.

The funeral was carried out according to Baltacha's wishes, with mourners attending in their brightest colours as she did not want everyone in black, while a piper played the attendees into the service.

Eleanor Preston, Baltacha's manager and trustee of the charity attached to the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis, said: "She was an incredibly inspiring person.

"She was inspiring for people who might just have watched her play, watched her fighting spirit.

"All of us who were lucky enough to have her in our lives feel very fortunate.

"Although it was much too short a time, we all feel very much the same. She was always an incredibly positive and upbeat person.

"She didn't want people in black and I think it's appropriate that we've all worn our brightest possible colours today.

"It was part of Bally's instructions and also a reflection of her disposition and her demeanour."

The family asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Rally For Bally on June 15, with all funds split equally between Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and the charity attached to the Elena Baltacha Academy of tennis, which was set up by Baltacha to help disadvantaged children learn to play.

"It's a really important project," Preston added.

"It's something which is going to change lives and enrich lives through sport.

"That was always her dream: to bring tennis to people who weren't going to find tennis any other way.

"It's great we're able to honour her life by putting all our energies into helping to continue the work she started with the academy."

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.

She 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.

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