Judy Mur­ray’s tears for tragic Scots ten­nis star Elena Bal­tacha

Scottish Daily Mail - - The Brexmas Election - By An­nie But­ter­worth

JUDY Mur­ray wept as she told how she spoke to ten­nis star Elena Bal­tacha just be­fore she died.

The ac­claimed coach and mother of for­mer Wim­ble­don cham­pion Sir Andy Mur­ray paid trib­ute to the ‘ab­so­lute gem’ in a film about her.

Miss Bal­tacha, who was born in Kiev, Ukraine, grew up in Perth and was one of the UK’s most suc­cess­ful ten­nis play­ers.

How­ever, she died of liver can­cer in May 2014, less than six months af­ter mar­ry­ing her for­mer coach Nino Sev­erino and aged just 30.

The film tells Miss Bal­tacha’s story from her begin­nings in the for­mer USSR to her life in Scot­land, and cel­e­brates her ca­reer suc­cesses.

Her fa­ther Sergei, brother Sergei, sis­ter-in-law Rosie and hus­band also give an in­sight into her rise to the top of the sport.

Miss Bal­tacha re­tired in 2013, and was di­ag­nosed with can­cer in Jan­u­ary 2014. She had lived with liver con­di­tion pri­mary scle­ros­ing cholan­gi­tis from the age of 19.

In the film Mrs Mur­ray tells of her fi­nal phone call with her. She said: ‘They put the phone to her, so I could speak to her. So I was able to say good­bye to her.’

Be­com­ing emo­tional and be­gin­ning to cry, she added: ‘She was amaz­ing.’

De­scrib­ing her first en­counter with the player as a child at a tour­na­ment in Dun­blane, Mrs Mur­ray said: ‘She bowled up – ginger hair, cap on, big glasses, shorts. She asked, “When am I play­ing?”.

‘She was des­per­ate to get on. She won the tour­na­ment, her thump­ing serve mean­ing she lodged balls in the hedge. You know, girls aged nine just do not serve like that.

‘It’s al­most like this split per­son­al­ity. On the court, the com­peti­tor and war­rior, off the court, just an ab­so­lute gem.’

Mrs Mur­ray also re­calls telling Miss Bal­tacha she had made it onto the 2012 Olympic team, help­ing her re­alise a dream to fol­low in her par­ents’ foot­steps and be­come an Olympian.

Miss Bal­tacha was ranked UK No 1 for 132 weeks, from De­cem­ber 2009 to June 2012. She also broke into the world’s top 50 and won 11 sin­gles ti­tles.

Elena Bal­tacha will be shown on BBC Alba next Sun­day at 9pm and will then be avail­able on iPlayer.

‘I was able to say good­bye to her’

Emo­tional: Judy Mur­ray in film Close: Elena Bal­tacha and Judy Mur­ray

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