It is supposed to be the epitome of sporting gentility and fair play, a festival of Britishness awash with nothing more sinister than lemon barley water and overpriced strawberries.
However, a light is being shone on the darker side of British tennis Thursday, after an allegation that a rising female tennis star was poisoned during last month’s Wimbledon lawn tennis championships.
Police are investigating the suspicious way in which British player Gabriella Taylor was struck down by a rare virus usually transmitted via rat urine amidst suspicions she was deliberately targetted.
Taylor became so unwell so rapidly that she was forced to withdraw from the tournament in the midst of her quarterfinal match in the junior tournament.
Had she won, she would only have been one match away from the final, leading police to investigate the possibility that she was poisoned by a jealous player, a rival coach, or a representative of a crooked international betting syndicate.
The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday that although medics initially suspected she had contracted a virus while playing overseas, they eventually diagnosed a rare strain of leptospirosis, a bacteria that can be transmitted through rat urine.
Taylor’s mother, Milena, told the Telegraph: “Before the tournament, she was in very good shape physically. She was totally healthy and playing very well.
“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 quarterfinal, 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.”
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “Merton police are investigating an allegation of poisoning with intent to endanger life or cause [grievous bodily harm].
“The allegation was received by officers on August 5 with the incident alleged to have taken place at an address in Wimbledon between July 1-10.
“The victim was taken ill on July 6. It is unknown where or when the poison was ingested. The victim, an 18-year-old woman, received hospital treatment and is still recovering.”