The 'Rally For Bally’ fundraising appeal started before Wimbledon as the name of a one-off series of charity mixed doubles exhibition matches played in memory of Elena Baltacha, the former British No.1 who died of liver cancer in May at the age of 30.
The aim was to raise funds jointly for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and The Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis. Supported by Andy Murray, Ross Hutchins, Martina Navratilova, Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski, Jamie Murray, Jonny Marray, Anne Keothavong and Heather Watson, its spirit captured the imagination and soon, the Rally for Bally became a more widespread call for the tennis world to gather together and help raise money to ensure the future of the academy she set up in Ipswich to give children from all backgrounds the chance to play tennis.
At Wimbledon, Baltacha’s life and tenacious competitive spirit were celebrated on Centre Court as a pupil from her academy took part in the ceremonial coin toss to open play in the ladies’ singles draw. With Elena’s husband Nino Severino looking on from the stands, emotions ran high as Elle Robus-Miller, 9, joined 2013 women's champion Marion Bartoli at the net before the opener between Sabine Lisicki and Julia Glushko.
The All England Club sold yellow ‘Rally for Bally’ wristbands via the programme sellers – and, as of 2pm on the final day, sales had raised an amazing £23,000.
Laura Robson – nicknamed Wristband Robbo by Judy Murray - had white wristbands produced especially for Wimbledon and was zealous in distributing them among the players, keeping in line with the Championships' ‘almost entirely in white’ dress-code. She also ensured her guest from boy band One Direction, Niall Horan, was photographed wearing one. “It’s been really emotional,” she said. “I knew Bally for 12 years so it’s been hard, but we will keep her legacy going. It is still shocking. This time last year we were at Wimbledon together.”
The 20th annual press tournament added a permanent tribute in by renaming its trophy the Elena Baltacha Memorial Cup. All the entry fees went towards the EBAT charity too, which added a further £200 to the pot.
Judy Murray, who had known Baltacha as a young girl and also as GB Fed Cup captain, added: "It's amazing not just in this country but all around the men's and women's circuit, people have been raising money to try and keep Bally’s academy going for many years to come."