FORMER British number one tennis player Elena Baltacha has vowed to fight liver cancer “with everything I have” after being diagnosed with the disease.
The 30-year-old, who retired from the sport last November due to a series of injuries, is undergoing treatment and thanked people for the support she has received.
The Ukraine-born player grew up mainly in Perth, Scotland, while her father played football with local team St Johnstone and represented Team GB at the 2012 Olympics.
In a statement on the Lawn Tennis Association website, she said: “I have recently been diagnosed with cancer of the liver. I’m currently undergoing treatment and fighting this illness with everything I have.”
At the age of 19 Baltacha was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver condition which affects the immune system.
She managed the condition throughout her career with medication and regular blood tests. She went on to win 11 singles titles. She has been a patron of the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation since 2010.
Since retiring in November, she has married her long-term coach and partner Nino Severino and has been coaching junior tennis players at her Ipswich-based academy.
Judy Murray, a friend of Baltacha and captain of Britain’s female tennis Fed Cup team, said: “Obviously this is a tough time for Bally, Nino and her family, but she is a such a determined, upbeat person and everyone around her is staying positive as well.
“I know she’ll be really grateful for all the support that she’s getting.”
Commentators have pointed to Great Britain Davis Cup player Ross Hutchins as inspiration for Baltacha. The 29-year-old returned to action earlier this year with doubles partner Colin Fleming after recovering from Hodgkins Lymphoma – a form of cancer. Hutchins was diagnosed with the illness in December 2012 but announced he was in remission in July.
Fellow player Anne Keothavong tweeted a picture of the pair along with a message of support.
It read: “She’s one of the people I most admire for her courage and determination. You’ll fight through this @ElenaBaltacha xxx.”