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2013 Wimbledon champion feared she would die

Former tennis player Marion Bartoli discusses her long road to recovery as she prepares for her role commentating at Wimbledon.

Marion Bartoli playing tennis on the Alexander III bridge near the Invalides in Paris on 24 June, 2017 in a bid to promote the candidacy of the city of Paris for the Summer Olympics Games in 2024.
Marion Bartoli playing tennis on the Alexander III bridge near the Invalides in Paris on 24 June, 2017 in a bid to promote the candidacy of the city of Paris for the Summer Olympics Games in 2024.
Image: Hahn Lionel/ABACA

MARION BARTOLI HAS battled back from ill health to be fighting fit for her role commentating at Wimbledon but the former French tennis star admitted on Monday she feared she would die.

The 32-year-old who beat Germany’s Sabine Lisicki to win the 2013 Wimbledon title, retired later that year and faded away to a mere shadow of the robust looking athlete she once was.

She told The Times she was battling the HINI virus, the swine flu bug blamed for wiping out millions in the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, but was only diagnosed after Wimbledon last year, laying to rest the rumours she was anorexic.

“I did not know if I would wake up alive the next morning,” she said while taking time out from commentating on the WTA tournament at Eastbourne last week.

But I thought, ‘if I have to die, then if it is at Wimbledon, I would accept it.’”

Bartoli, who also reached the 2007 Wimbledon final, says her career-defining victory in 2013 came just at the moment she was physically falling apart.

It was almost a miracle from God to win Wimbledon,” said Bartoli, whose highest world ranking was seven.

Bartoli says the weight loss was so dramatic she was reduced to buying clothes made for young teenagers.

I was in the public eye and I could hear people talking behind my back and saying, ‘Oh, she’s anorexic’ and I wanted to scream out and say, ‘You have no idea what I’m going through’,” said Bartoli, who went through her 2013 Wimbledon campaign without dropping a set.

“It was a battle to survive every day. I could not believe people were thinking I was doing that on purpose to myself. I was scared of everything.

“I was not processing protein, I was losing my hair and I love my long hair, and my teeth were almost falling out and my skin was breaking down.

I could not wash myself with normal water, I could not type an email, my skin was so thin that I could feel the electricity. I had arthritis. I was buying clothes for 14-year-olds.”

Following her diagnosis last year Bartoli spent four months in hospital in Paris and then required daily visits from a nurse at her home in Dubai.

She puts her illness down to battering her body incessantly from a very young age in her bid to succeed in the sport.

I felt it happened for a reason. My body was reminding me that it has been going non-stop since I was eight years old until the moment I got ill,” said Bartoli, whose immediate target is to focus on her personal life and her desire to find love and found a family.

“I am starting to feel alive again and ready to build a love story, to start a family,” she said.

© AFP 2017

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