Elena Baltacha may sadly no longer be among us, but the memory of the former British #Tennis player is set to live on. The news that it is planned to name the winner's trophy at an inaugural event in Nottingham, the Aegon Open, in her honour represents a heart-warming gesture. It is a timely reminder that professional sport is not simply about money and winning, there is also space for the more humane aspects of life to be considered from time to time as well.
The tragic death of Baltacha in May last year, almost a year to the day in fact, touched everyone within the tennis fraternity and indeed sports' fans globally. She had shown the usual grit and determination that characterised her playing style right up to the end, when facing up to the liver cancer she had been diagnosed with earlier in that same year. She had died at just 30-years-old, having retired from the game some six months previously.
Born in Ukraine, but raised in Scotland, she held the position of British number one intermittently from 2002 for most of the following decade. While not being quite able to scale right to the top of the women's singles world rankings, she did break into the top 50 in 2010. No mean achievement in itself in such a hugely competitive sport. What was especially remarkable about her success in the game was that she coped with a liver condition for many years. From the age of 19 she managed to play on despite suffering with primary sclerosing cholangitis.
She had married her tennis coach Nino Severino just weeks before hearing the terrible news of her cancer, making the moment even more poignant and heart-breaking. He referred to the warmth of the tennis family in Britain, upon hearing the news about the generous naming gesture. Mr Severino was genuinely touched that they were "remembering her this way."
At the time of her death, tributes had poured in from across the tennis community, speaking of her great warmth and kindness. 'Bally', as she was often referred to, was fondly remembered by the great former champions Billie Jean King and Chris Evert. There were also social media dedications made by Laura Robson and Andy Murray, recognising her stature within British tennis. So the news of the trophy naming should be well-received within the sport.
The specially commissioned trophy will be awarded to this year's winner and is to take the form of a silver bowl. The new event on the WTA tour will take place between 6th and 14th June, with the matches being held at the Nottingham Tennis Centre.