‘I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced such strength in a hu­man be­ing’


IT is just un­der six weeks since the tragic death of Elena Bal­tacha and yes­ter­day, her griev­ing hus­band, Nino Sev­erino said she had fought the dis­ease with the same kind of de­ter­mi­na­tion and spirit that she ex­hib­ited through­out her ten­nis ca­reer.

Sev­erino, who made the jour­ney to Paris last week to pick up a spe­cial ITF award for Bal­tacha at the French Open, said the 30-year-old had never put her feel­ings be­fore oth­ers and that she had bat­tled to the end.

“When she got the di­ag­no­sis, she was ob­vi­ously very shocked, very up­set,” Sev­erino told BBC Ra­dio 5 live yes­ter­day, in his first in­ter­view. “I was be­side my­self. It was very, very dif­fi­cult.

“I’ve never ever ex­pe­ri­enced such strength in a hu­man be­ing. Lots of hu­mans go through hor­ri­ble, hor­ri­ble things but this woman was 30 years old, she had just re­tired and she had so many amaz­ing things at her feet and then we were up against this fight.”

“She never once, ever through the whole or­deal, ever com­plained. “She said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to ev­ery­body, treated ev­ery­one with re­spect. She al­ways put myfeel­ings first be­fore hers, never wanted me to be up­set.

Scot­tish-raised Bal­tacha re­tired from the sport in Novem­ber last year af­ter a ca­reer in which she made the world’s top 50 and was a com­mit­ted Fed Cup team mem­ber.

She mar­ried her long-time coach Sev­erino in De­cem­ber but was di­ag­nosed with liver cancer in Jan­uary af­ter go­ing to the doc­tor com­plain­ing of a con­stant cough.

“I lit­er­ally spent ev­ery sec­ond with Bal fight­ing all the way. It was hor­ren­dous cancer that she had, the worst you can get, in the liver. The fight was bru­tal. I loved her, more than any­thing and she felt the same. We were just ut­terly de­voted to each other, ut­terly.”

Thoughts of Elena have never been far from the play­ers’ minds here at the Ae­gon Cham­pi­onships this week, with Queen’s Club due to play host to­mor­row to one of sev­eral events in her hon­our.

The Rally for Bally will see many of the sport’s leading names, in­clud­ing Andy Mur­ray, Jamie Mur­ray and Martina Navratilova, take part in a num­ber of ex­hi­bi­tions at venues across the coun­try.

The money raised will be shared be­tween the Elena Bal­tacha Academy of Ten­nis and the Royal Mars­den Cancer Char­ity, the Lon­don hospi­tal that spe­cialises in the treat­ment of the dis­ease.

Af­ter the early exit of Andy Mur­ray on Thurs­day, the shocks con­tin­ued yes­ter­day as No.2 seed To­mas Berdych lost 6-4, 7-6 to Feli­ciano Lopez.

Top seed Stanislav Wawrinka avoided the upsets, beat­ing Marinko Mato­se­vic 7-5, 6-3 and will now play Grigor Dim­itrov, who ad­vanced when Alexan­der Dol­go­polov with­drew be­fore their match be­cause of in­jury.

Radek Stepanek fol­lowed up his vic­tory over Mur­ray with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Kevin An­der­son.

Jamie Mur­ray and John Peers, who de­feated Bob and Mike Bryan, reached the semi-fi­nals with a 6-4, 7-6 win over An­der­son and Jonathan Erlich, win­ning the tiebreak 16-14.

Pic­ture: Getty

MAIDEN: Joe Root cel­e­brates his first dou­ble-century to take Eng­land to 575 de­clared.

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