MOURNERS will gather to pay their respects to Elena Baltacha on Monday at a private funeral held for the former British number one, who died of liver cancer a fortnight ago.
Baltacha was diagnosed with the illness in January, just two months after retiring from tennis and weeks after marrying her long-time coach Nino Severino.
She passed away aged 30.
Those attending the funeral in Ipswich have been asked to wear their “brightest colours” at the request of Baltacha, who “did not want everyone in black”.
The family have also asked that instead of flowers, donations be made to Rally For Bally, with funds split equally between Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and the Elena Baltacha Academy of tennis, which she set up to help disadvantaged children take up the sport.
Baltacha had retired from professional tennis after a career which had seen her ranked British number one for 132 weeks, from December 2009 to June 2012.
Her highest singles world ranking was 49, which she reached in September 2010.
Baltacha was diagnosed with a liver condition - primary sclerosing cholangitis - at the age of 19 and managed the disease throughout her career with medication and blood tests.
Despite the disruption the illness caused, Baltacha won 11 singles titles, made the third round of Wimbledon in 2002 and reached the same stage of the Australian Open in 2005 and 2010.
“The more time that passes the more people will celebrate everything that Bally did,” Andy Murray said at the Madrid Masters, where players paid tribute to Baltacha with a minute’s silence.
“She was a great character, a great person, she got everything she could out of her potential.
‘’Everyone wants to be Wimbledon champion and to be number one in the world but not everyone can have that. The best thing you can do is achieve your potential and I believe she did that. That’s a big credit to her.”
Murray’s mother Judy first knew Baltacha as a junior in Scotland and the pair remained close for many years after, working together through Judy’s role as captain of Great Britain’s Fed Cup team.
“’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,” Judy said in a statement.
‘’She was one in a million. An absolute gem.’’
Tributes poured in for Baltacha from current and former players including 18-time singles champion Martina Navratilova, who made a full recovery from breast cancer in 2010.
‘’Elena Baltacha was a great fighter on the tennis court,” Navratilova said.
“Elena was taken from the world much too soon - fighting to the end, and we will miss her.”