Monday 18 December 2017

'Poisoned' Wimbledon player Gabriella Taylor granted wildcard

Ben Rumsby

A British tennis player whose suspected “poisoning” during last year’s Wimbledon was investigated by Scotland Yard after she “almost died” has been awarded a wildcard for this year’s qualifying tournament.

Gabriella Taylor, who was forced to withdraw from the girls' singles in 2016, after being struck down with a mystery illness, was handed a spot a next week’s preliminary women’s competition in Roehampton.

Having pulled out midway through her quarter-final match with what was initially thought to be a virus, the 19-year-old spent four days in intensive care before being diagnosed with a rare strain of Leptospirosis, a disease caused by a bacterium that can be transmitted through rat urine.

As exclusively revealed by the Daily Telegraph, police launched an investigation in August amid suspicion she had been deliberately poisoned in an attempt to wreck her tournament chances, with one theory being she may have been targeted by an organised crime betting syndicate.

Taylor’s mother claimed she “almost died” from the illness, adding: “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.”

Metropolitan Police detectives took away some of Taylor’s water bottles for further forensic analysis, although with the bacteria having an incubation period of up to a fortnight, it was feared any potential evidence would have long gone.

Gabriella Taylor of Great Britain plays a backhand during the Girl's singles first round match against Morgan Coppoc of The United States on Middle Sunday of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 3, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Gabriella Taylor of Great Britain plays a backhand during the Girl's singles first round match against Morgan Coppoc of The United States on Middle Sunday of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 3, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

The Met confirmed on Wednesday that detectives from Merton CID had “fully investigated an allegation of poisoning” during an investigation that concluded in February.

It added: “It found no evidence of any crime scene, motive or suspect(s) who deliberately administered any substances to the victim.

“The victim and her family were kept updated at every stage of the investigation and the conclusion of the investigation was discussed with them.”

Taylor began a blog on Tuesday in which she wrote: “I know there was a lot of speculation in the media about what I got, but the bottom line was, the doctors were never able to find out. It remains a mystery to this day. It was a very tough period in my life, slowly but surely, I got my strength back and I’m living proof now, that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Also given a Wimbledon qualifying wildcard on Wednesday was Marcus Willis, who wowed the country last year by coming through pre-qualifying to play Roger Federer in the second round of the men’s singles.

Willis had been hoping his headline-hogging exploits would earn him a main-draw place, which he was granted in the men’s doubles, but not the singles.

He will be joined at Roehampton by fellow wildcards Liam Broady, Jay Clarke, Edward Corrie and Lloyd Glasspool.

Katie Swan, Katy Dunne, Harriet Dart, Freya Christie, and last year’s girls’ champion, Anastasia Potapova, were granted women’s qualifying spots.

Laura Robson, Heather Watson, Naomi Broady and Katie Boulter were awarded main-draw places, as were male counterparts James Ward, Tommy Haas, Cameron Norrie, Brydan Klein and 2016 boys’ champion Denis Shapovalov.

Telegraph.co.uk

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