Elena Baltacha’s name set to live on in award

Elena Baltacha in action at Craiglockhart in 2001
Elena Baltacha in action at Craiglockhart in 2001
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Moves were afoot to involve former Scots tennis star Elena Baltacha, who has died of liver cancer aged 30, in festivities surrounding the Commonwealth Games.

An impending role for the one-time Youth Games silver medallist at Craiglockhart was revealed today as a Tennis Scotland spokesman also disclosed that Baltacha’s name would be preserved through an award or some other commemorative.

Peter Nicolson, a member of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games organising committee and ex-Tennis Scotland president, said: “I knew Elena wasn’t well, but the hope was always that she could come back to Scotland during or before the Games and play a part.”

Through being manager of Scotland’s Commonwealth Games tennis team in Delhi four years ago, Nicolson recalled how she had been forced to withdraw due to health issues. Mr Nicolson added: “Kit had already been ordered for Elena and we felt she had earned the right to wear it through her contributions to Scottish tennis over many years.

“I’ll remember Elena as an extremely positive person for whom nothing was too much trouble. For her nothing was an obstacle. This attitude helped her achieve so much, bearing in mind that, from her teens, she was not really a well person.”

Baltacha arrived in the UK from the Ukraine aged five when dad, Sergei, signed for Ipswich Town football club and within 12 months had relocated to Perth.

Mhairi Beattie (nee Brown), now a coach, recalled: “We played for Scotland through the age-groups and on to the 2000 Youth Games where, along with Karen Paterson, from Edinburgh, we won a team silver medal.

“I was due to partner Elena at the senior Delhi Games before question marks about the playing conditions and her fragile health forced her to pull out.

“There were just too many uncertainties surrounding the conditions that she was left with no option.

“She was always very proud to represent Scotland as well as her North regional team while growing up in Perth.”

A year after the Youth Games success, Elena reached the quarter-finals of a $25,000 ITF tournament at Craiglockhart as a teenage qualifier.

Having peaked at a world ranking high of No.49 in 2010, Elena began to concentrate on establishing her Tennis Academy in Ipswich, where she assisted up-and-coming Edinburgh star Anastasia Mikheeva, 14, whose dad/coach, Andrei said: “Elena was extremely kind and not just with her time.

“When she went on court with a youngster like Anastasia she could have walked about, but she chased down every ball to try to assist as much as possible. In every respect she was thoroughly professional and even invited me to accompany her and to a few tournaments so that I could get perspective and experiences that might be useful to Anastasia.”

On three occasions Elena reached the last 32 of Grand Slam singles tournaments.

Colinton’s Suzi Mair, the previous Scot to play main draw Wimbledon singles, said: “I found Elena feisty and vibrant. She had such guts and determination on court and, latterly, off court as well.

“This incredible strength was so important to her being able to make up lost ground very quickly whenever she had to drop out of tennis for spells due to her poor health.”

A spokesman for Tennis Scotland said: “There is no question that Elena’s contributions to the game here will be marked appropriately. It is so terribly, terribly said to lose her when she had so much more to give.”