Shocking news has hit the tennis circuit, as Scotland Yard investigate accusations that Gabriella Taylor was deliberately poisoned during the Wimbledon Championships this year.
The teenager was forced to withdraw from the girl’s tournament midway through her quarter final match, after being hit by a mystery illness.
It was believed that eighteen-year-old Ms Taylor had contracted a virus while playing overseas, but following four days in intensive care she was diagnosed with a rare strain of Leptospirosis – commonly known as Weil’s disease. This disease is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted through rat urine.
The criminal investigation began last week to see if this poisoning was an attempt to ruin Ms Taylor’s dream of winning the junior tournament. The police will investigate if this was premeditated by a rival player, or a coach from the cutthroat junior circuit.
Following the horrifying realisation that their daughter could have died, Milena Taylor, her mother, commented: “She was full of confidence and was looking forward to getting the title; that was her dream. Everything was going well.
“She got to the quarter-final, but then the next thing she is lying in intensive care close to death. When the infection team explained what it was we could not believe it.”
Leptospirosis normally causes mild flu-like symptoms, but some strains can be life-threatening and in exceptional cases can cause fatal organ failure.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) fully support the police investigation and chief executive Michael Downey has “expressed his sympathy” for the young athlete.
Ms Taylor expressed her concern and stated: “She was staying in a completely healthy environment. For her to get ill in these circumstances, with rat urine, was just impossible.
“The bacteria the infection team found is so rare in Britain that we feel this could not have been an accident. Her bags with her drinks in were often left unattended in the players’ lounge and someone could have taken the opportunity to contaminate her drink.”
A spokesperson from Wimbledon declared: “The All England Tennis Club has not been approached about the investigation which is a police matter. There is no record of Miss Taylor using her catering pass to eat on site at the Championships in 2016.”
Ms Taylor’s water bottles have been taken for further forensic analysis by the Metropolitan Police, who have recently visited the family at their home in Southampton. However, there are worries that potential evidence has disappeared, due to the bacteria having an incubation life of a fortnight.
Gabriella Taylor, ranked 381 in the world, has now returned to her training camp in Marbella, but faces a challenging road ahead of her after she described the illness as “probably the worst time of my life”.
Her mother added: “Gabriella is very, very disappointed. It is going to take her a very long time to recover from this physically and mentally. She almost died.”