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Elena Baltacha: Husband reflects on 'tough' tennis player

Five years on from the former No1's death, her life has been explored in a new documentary.

Tough: Elena was a force to be reckoned with.
Tough: Elena was a force to be reckoned with. SNS Group

The husband of former No1 tennis player Elena Baltacha has spoken of his loss five years after her death from liver cancer.

Born in Ukraine, Elena was raised in Perth and Paisley, as her father Sergei played football in Scotland in teams such as St Johnstone.

Interviewed at a young age, Elena was determined that she would play tennis for Great Britain, and not her former homeland.

Affectionately known as Bal or Bally, she was a relentless force on the court, winning 11 singles titles.

Husband and coach Nino Severino says Elena had a huge impact on British tennis.

'What she did for tennis when she was competing was amazing.'
Nino Severino

"She was so tough, so strong, so confident," he says.

"What she did for tennis when she was competing was amazing, I mean I was there, I witnessed it all.

"She saved British tennis from some very dark days. Her legacy is so powerful."

Behind closed doors, Elena was fighting chronic liver disease, a constant pain she kept mostly secret until she retired from tennis in November 2013.

"Her liver was as bad as George Best's liver, it was that bad," Nino explains.

"She had to take a lot of tablets every day, so it was a challenge but she never ever let me talk about it and she would get quite angry if I said, 'You've got to tell people, you know it's difficult for you, it's not the same playing field.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDjOtpj2lGA&feature=youtu.be | youtube

"You've got this condition it's not the same. Let people know and she would not have it at all."

In January 2014, Elena was diagnosed with liver cancer, but just four months later she passed away aged 30.

Tributes poured in from the sporting world and beyond, from Billie Jean King to Serena Williams.

Now a new documentary which will air this weekend honours her short, but extraordinary life.

The film explores her frankness when discussing her cancer diagnosis, with Judy Murray calling the late star "amazing".

Before Elena passed away, she set up a tennis training academy to get kids into the sport regardless of their background.

It has helped ensure that her legacy will live on.

"You don't realise what a woman you've got beside you till she's gone," Nino adds.

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