Britain’s number 1 female tennis player Elena Baltacha was today (Wednesday 24th October) honoured with an Honorary Doctorate from University Campus Suffolk (UCS) during Graduation Ceremonies held at the Ipswich Town Hall and Corn Exchange.
The world number 135 received an Honorary Award in recognition of her professional achievements in the sport as well as her commitment to developing young talent through the Ipswich-based Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis (EBAT) which she opened in 2010.
Before receiving her award, Elena said: “This is a wonderful honour and I’d like to thank the University. East Anglia has played such a massive part in my life so it’s particularly nice for me to be honoured here.”
Her career has seen her win ten International Tennis Federation single titles and four doubles titles. In addition, until recently, she had held the ranking of the number 1 British female tennis player intermittently since 2002 and achieved a top ranking of the number 52 seed in the world in 2010. Elena has made the top 50 World Tennis Association rankings for 2 consecutive years finishing the 2011 season as a top 50 player. With this track record Elena is, unquestionably, one of Britain’s most successful female tennis players.
Twelve years of playing professional tennis has led Elena to become a popular and highly-respected figure on the British tennis scene. Her work ethic and achievements were most recently recognised by earning her a wild-card entry to represent Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics. This marking the achievement of a long standing personal goal and a career highlight. Interestingly taking part in the 2012 Games also provided Elena with the rather unique opportunity; to become a second generation Olympian, enabling her to follow in the footsteps of her Mother and Father who both qualified in their respective disciplines to represent the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics.
Elena was introduced to the stage to collect her award by Paul Driscoll, UCS Lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery.
“Elena represents the very best attributes of the professional athlete; she is passionately committed to her goals and is, possibly, the most driven person I have had the pleasure to meet.”
He continued: “There is no doubt in my mind, that as an Honorary Fellow, Elena will be inspirational and a great role model for all UCS graduates.”
Presently based in Ipswich, Elena has reflected upon the transformational effects that tennis has had upon her life and made the decision to give back to her local community by establishing the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis, (EBAT).
“It’s a real honour and privilege to be here to receive this Honorary Fellowship.”, she said.
“I would like to congratulate you all who are here to receive your degrees today and commend you for the massive dedication and work you’ve put into your achievements. I am honoured to share this special occasion with you.”
UCS will recognise four other extraordinary individuals for achievements within their field during this week’s Graduation Ceremonies, including Liz Calder, founding director of Bloomsbury Publishing where she launched the Harry Potter series and Erica Tower, Director of Partnerships at UEA whilst working with Suffolk College in the development of UCS.