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2014 in review: Keothavong pays tribute to Baltacha

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Originally published on 24/12/14

Elena Baltacha was an example to all as she repeatedly bounced back from injuries and a serious liver condition to become British No.1. A smile was never far from her face and she was always positive, especially when enthusing about the academy she had set up to give opportunities to underprivileged children.

Baltacha retired at the end of last year, shortly before marrying Nino Severino. Within a month she was diagnosed with liver cancer. She died on the first Sunday in May aged just 30.

Many moving tributes were paid at her funeral, but one that particularly touched the heart was Anne Keothavong’s. In their early years they were more rivals than friends, but Keothavong saw at first hand the spirit and bravery that Baltacha found in order to achieve her goals. Respect blossomed into friendship.

Keothavong related a wonderful story of how they had sat in their chairs on court long after their defeat in the doubles at the 2012 Olympics, talking about their lives and their many years battling each other for the British No.1 spot. Some who delivered tributes at the funeral understandably stumbled over their words. “Bally” would have loved the strength her former rival showed in keeping her composure on this saddest of days.

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This is an excerpt from "2014: That Was The Year That Was" in Volume 5 Issue 6Subscribe to the magazine today or download tennishead on iTunes.

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