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By Chris Oddo | Monday, May 5, 2014

Elena Baltacha

Elena Baltacha's tragic passing has produced an outpouring of love and compassion in the tennis world.

Photo Source: Glyn Kirk/ AFP

The common expression—no words—in this case does not suffice. Because we need words to make sense of what we feel when someone as young as Elena Baltacha, just 30 when she passed away Sunday from liver cancer, is taken from the tennis community.

Former British No. 1 Elena Baltacha, 30, Succumbs to Liver Cancer

As much as we love to break down the week's heroes, parsing through their varied accomplishments, trophies, titles and statistics, there can only be one hero this week: Elena Baltacha. And trophies and titles, well, they just don't seem to matter as much today.

We eagerly and wholeheartedly dedicate this column to the memory of Elena Baltacha. To her achievements for sure (she was an Olympian and a former top-50 player, as well as the backbone of her nation's Fed Cup team for many years), but more importantly to her intangibles: to her effervescent smile, to the way she dedicated herself to tennis despite daunting obstacles, serving both her country and her teammates loyally, with passion, and virtue. To the way that she moved the people that she came into contact with, and the way that her life well and courageously lived is bringing those people to tears and stirring eulogies at her departure.

The sense of perspective that we gather from a devastating loss like this helps us to see players more as people than as commodities. It helps us realize that Baltacha's (or anyone's) greatness was not in her results, her ranking or her tour-level victories—it was in her heart and in her fighting spirit. It leads us to the enlightening and soul-quenching discovery that in our day-to-day inspection of the tour and its characters we can often overlook or under value the definitive traits that make certain players truly remarkable

Baltacha's life and career was, most certainly, remarkable.

That Baltacha battled feverishly to become the best tennis player she could be despite suffering from a chronic liver condition since age 19 is worthy of our unwavering respect. That she passionately endeavored to embody the characteristic that we tennis fans tend to value the most at the end of the day—the warrior spirit—is worthy of our praise. That she spirited on even after calling it a career, setting up a tennis academy and a charity foundation and remaining dedicated to the game behind the scenes, is worthy of our admiration.

Players gathered on court in Madrid today in heartfelt celebration of Elena Baltacha's life, and we gather now amongst friends and fellow tennis enthusiasts to mourn the loss and to show our gratitude for a warrior who never cowered in the face of a challenge. What more could we have asked for in a person?

R.I.P. Elena Baltacha

Tweets from those that knew her best:


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