THE HUSBAND of tennis star Elena Baltacha has spoken of his wife’s “incredible strength” during her treatment for liver cancer. The former British number one died on 4 May at the age of 30, just months after announcing her diagnosis.
But Nino Severino said his wife had never complained about her illness and continued to fight it until the end.
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray will join other tennis stars tomorrow for charity fundraising events in memory of Ms Baltacha.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Severino said: “In all the time I spent with Bally, this is what really showed what a person she was.
“Bally was ill for quite a long time. The medical people couldn’t seem to understand why.
“The symptoms she was showing didn’t seem to indicate anything with the liver. She had loads of tests that all came back clear.
“But she had this really, really bad cough and then it was in January she got a pain in her side and that’s when we found out.
“When she got the diagnosis, she was obviously very shocked, very upset. I was beside myself. It was very, very difficult.”
He added: “Lots of humans go through horrible, horrible things but this woman was 30 years old, she had just retired and she had so many amazing things at her feet and then we were up against this fight.”
Ms Baltacha announced her retirement from playing last November, after struggling with injury and illness, then married her coach, Mr Severino, in January, just before she was diagnosed with cancer.
Originally born in Ukraine before being raised in Scotland, Baltacha won 11 singles titles during her career, as well as making the third round of Wimbledon in 2002 and was part of Great Britain’s Fed Cup team for 12 years.
Mr Severino said the battle against the cancer was “brutal” for his wife.
He said: “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.
“I literally spent every second with Bal fighting all the way. It was horrendous cancer that she had, the worst you can get, in the liver. The fight was brutal.
“I loved her, more than anything and she felt the same. We were just utterly devoted to each other, utterly.”
The Sunday charity mixed double matches will raise money for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis.
The Rally For Bally will see Andy Murray and Aegon Championships Tournament Director Ross Hutchins on opposing mixed teams at The Queen’s Club.
In Birmingham, Martina Navratilova, Anne Keothavong, Tim Henman and Jamie Murray will play matches, while Greg Rusedski and Jonny Marray will be on opposite teams in Eastbourne.
Britain’s three highest ranked women, Laura Robson, Jo Konta and Heather Watson, will also take part in the charity matches.
The JustGiving page for RallyforBally has so far raised more than £45,000, which will be split with other donations and ticket sales between the two charities.