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Tennis stars backing Elena Baltacha

UK tennis stars have rallied behind former British women's tennis number one Elena Baltacha after she revealed she has liver cancer.

Current British number one Laura Robson and Federation Cup team captain Judy Murray were among those to voice their support of the 30-year-old, who was forced to retire through injury in November.

Ukrainian-born Baltacha vowed to fight the cancer "with everything I have" after revealing her diagnosis yesterday.

Mrs Murray, who has known Baltacha since she was a child starting out in the game in Scotland, 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."

Miss Robson tweeted: "Sending so many positive vibes your way Bally! You've got this xx"

Anne Keothavong, who was at the top of British female tennis with Baltacha for many years, also took to Twitter, posting 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.''

Baltacha has been a patron of the Children's Liver Disease Foundation since 2010.

At the age of 19 she 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, reached the third round of Wimbledon in 2002 and the same stage of the Australian Open in 2005 and 2010.

The daughter of former Ipswich, St Mirren and Inverness footballer Sergei, she reached a career-high ranking of 49 in 2010 and was British number one for 132 weeks between 2009 and 2012.

However, she struggled with injury and illness during her career, and ankle problems eventually forced her to retire.

She has since married her long-term coach and partner Nino Severino and has been coaching junior tennis players at her Ipswich-based academy.

Yesterday she released a statement saying she was undergoing cancer treatment.

Messages of support quickly flooded in and British number three Heather Watson added her voice to the chorus of well wishes following her defeat by Agnieszka Radwanska at the BNP Paribas Open.

"It's terrible news to hear, and it must be so tough for her," she said.

"I just wish her all the best. A good recovery. We'll all be thinking of her.

"I played doubles with her and won in Fed Cup in Sweden. I have been around her a lot. And especially being British and British tennis, all of us girls are very close.

"We will be sending our thoughts and prayers out to her. She has a real fighting spirit."

Baltacha can look to Great Britain Davis Cup player Ross Hutchins for inspiration.

The 29-year-old, this week appointed the new tournament director of London's AEGON Championships, returned to action earlier this year with doubles partner Colin Fleming after recovering from Hodgkin's lymphoma - a form of cancer.

Hutchins was diagnosed with the illness in December 2012 but announced he was in remission in July.


From Belfast Telegraph