Elena Baltacha

An empowering role model, talented Scottish tennis player Elena Baltacha was just 30 years old when she died from cancer in 2014. Her family, friends and coaches tell the story of her remarkable resilience to become British No.1 and achieve a top fifty world ranking, despite struggling with severe illness throughout her career.

Broadcast on BBC ALBA in 2019.

The highest ranked Scottish tennis player, Elena Baltacha was also a British number one who at the height of her career was ranked among the top 50 players in the world. She won 11 ITF singles titles as well as competing – and winning – regularly on the WTA Tour. She reached the third round of Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Elena also played regularly in the Fed Cup, and represented Team GB during the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Born in Kiev in 1983 Elena was raised in Scotland after arriving in the UK in 1989 with her brother and parents. Elena began playing tennis at a young age. Tennis coach Judy Murray, the mother of champions Jamie and Andy, first came across Elena competing in a tournament in Dunblane. She was a standout player, even though she was just nine years old. Elena developed a love of the game and a lifelong friendship with Judy.

Diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis when she was just 19, Elena played through the debilitating pain barriers of the illness to become British number one, a role model for women and girls, and a patron of the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation. She was working as an advocate creating opportunities in tennis for disadvantaged children through her Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis in Ipswich when she tragically died from liver cancer five years ago. She was just 30 years old. Elena’s death came just weeks after her marriage to her tennis coach and long term partner, Nino Severino.

Sport was part of Elena’s firmament. Her mother Olga was a pentathlon and heptathlon athlete representing the USSR and her father, Sergei, was a USSR international footballer before joining Ipswich and St Johnstone, and latterly Inverness Caledonian Thistle as manager.

Elena’s remarkable story is told through the testimony of her family – her father Sergei, her brother, the former St Mirren footballer Sergei Baltacha, her husband Nino Severino;  Judy Murray and Jo Durie, as well as her friends, fellow players and coaches.


Writer / Producer / Director: Margot McCuaig

Filmed:  Gavin Hopkins

Editor: Kenny Park

Narrator: Alex O’Henley