Ipswich tennis star Elena Baltacha announces her retirement

Elena Baltacha waves goodbye to the crowd after losing in the second round of the London 2012 Olympi

Elena Baltacha waves goodbye to the crowd after losing in the second round of the London 2012 Olympics - Credit: PA

Ipswich tennis star Elena Baltacha has this morning announced that she is retiring as a player with immediate effect.

Elena Baltacha celebrates during her run to the second round of Wimbledon last year

Elena Baltacha celebrates during her run to the second round of Wimbledon last year - Credit: PA

Despite being diagnosed with a chronic liver condition which compromises the immune system at the age of 19, and picking up several major injuries along the way, Baltacha has enjoyed a distinguished career.

British No.1 for long periods between 2002 to 2012, the Ukrainian-born, Scottish-raised player was as high as No.49 in the world rankings in September 2010 and reached the third round of Grand Slams on three occasions (Wimbledon 2002, Australian Open 2005, 2010).

She underwent surgery on her right ankle following the 2012 Olympic Games and, after a promising comeback year, has decided to call it a day after her left ankle flared up following the US open in August.

The 30-year-old will now focus on coaching at her ‘Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis’ (EBAT) at Ipswich Sports Club.

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“It just feels it’s the right time” said Baltacha, who turned 30 in August. “My body has taken such a bruising over the last 16 years and that’s finally taken its toll.

“I have had some amazing experiences through playing tennis – some incredible highs and some very low lows – and I wouldn’t change any of them, but now my mind and my body are telling me it’s time to move on to a new phase of my life.

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“I still absolutely love tennis and I want to take that passion and put it into learning to be the best coach I can be. I want to take all my experiences as a player and use them to help develop the next generation of British tennis players.

“I am very committed to my Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis (EBAT), which I started with my coach Nino Severino. We believe that, no matter what background you are from, all children, rich or poor, should have the opportunity to play tennis. Hopefully we’ll produce a champion one day.”

Baltacha, who came to England as a five-year-old when her father Sergei signed for Ipswich Town Football Club, is proud to have represented Great Brirain over the years. She played 39 Fed Cup ties in 12 consecutive years (2002-2013) and was part of Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“There are lots of people for me to thank,” she continued. “Firstly I want to thank all the tennis fans because they’ve been amazing to me through the years. They’ve supported me through my successes and have been there through the lowest moments of my career. They have been simply brilliant.

“There are also lots of people in ‘Team Bally’ who have played an important part in my career.

“My coach Nino (Severino) – thank you so much for believing in me when I didn’t! For picking me up off my knees and letting me lean on you when I wasn’t strong enough and teaching me how to become a true professional and a true competitor.

“Judy Murray and Louis Cayer: Judy, for being such an inspirational lady. I can’t tell you how much of an honour it was to play for such a brilliant Fed Cup captain. Louis, you are simply a genius.

“Everyone at the LTA – Leon Smith, Iain Bates, Jeremy Bates and all the physios and sports scientists who have always given me such brilliant support.

“My team – Alasdair Jones, Ben Haining, Vicky Solomon, Jamie Friend, Caroline Tronson, Pete Tuffrey, Eleanor Preston, Lindsay Farish-Carradice and Anna Sheppard. Thank you for the honesty when I didn’t want to hear it, for not jumping off when it got a bit rough and for being special people.

“My family, who have supported me through everything, but most importantly my mum. Thank you for introducing me to tennis 24 years ago in our back garden in Ipswich and for sacrificing most of your life to allow me to follow my dream of one day being a professional tennis player.”

Iain Bates, the LTA’s head of women’s tennis, said: “Elena has been a shining light at the forefront of British women’s tennis for more than a decade. A driven and dedicated pro, a fierce competitor and a great role model for future generations she has made an outstanding contribution to the game.

“She has been a great pleasure to work with and without doubt her spirit, determination and appetite for a challenge will serve her well for everything she does in the future.”

Judy Murray, Aegon GB Fed Cup team captain, commented: “Bally has been the most incredible ambassador for women’s tennis in Britain for the past 12 years. Her work ethic and competitive spirit are second to none. If we could bottle those qualities we would have many more top players. She’s the perfect role model for our junior girls and the Fed Cup won’t be the same without her.”

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