Serena Williams was last night fighting to overcome an illness that threatened to derail her bid to win a 20th grand slam title at the French Open final.
Williams is due to face Czech Lucie Safarova in the Paris showpiece but the American was still suffering severe symptoms of flu last night, which also hampered her during her semi-final victory over Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky.
The world No 1 was clearly unwell during the contest, smothering herself in cold towels at each change of ends, and she skipped post-match media duties to see the tournament doctor.
There is no suggestion yet that Williams will not play in the final but she neither practised nor showed up for a press conference yesterday, instead sending a statement from her Parisian apartment.
“I started to feel unwell around the third or fourth round and I felt really terrible during the semis against Timea,” Williams said.
“I’m actually not sure how I got through the match and when it was over I just kind of collapsed. I couldn’t move.
“I saw the tournament doctor on site and since I came home I’ve been resting – I just could not practice today.
“I think I have some kind of flu which makes it tough, because it’s just a matter of resting and keeping hydrated – there’s not much else I can do.”
Williams, who is hoping to win her third title at Roland Garros, has overcome injury and illness before and Safarova will be aware the top seed claimed 10 games in a row while under the weather to beat Bacsinszky on Thursday.
She has also come from behind four times this tournament to win in three sets, a personal record for the 19-time champion at a grand slam.
“I need time and obviously don’t have a lot of it but it helps that I can be at my apartment and have my family and friends with me,” said Williams.
“Being in the final here in Paris means so much to me and it’s very upsetting that I feel so lousy right now. It’s really unfortunate to be like this at the grand slam where I feel so at home and really want to win.
“I just have to hope that tomorrow I will be feeling a lot better and able to give my best on the court.”
Safarova will be determined to keep focus, in spite of Williams’s discomfort, as she prepares for a first grand slam final of her career.
The world No 13 has enjoyed a remarkable run at Roland Garros, knocking out defending champion Maria Sharapova in the last 16 before beating seventh seed Ana Ivanovic in the last four.
“It’s my 12th year on the tour and to reach this finally, you appreciate it much more, I think,” said Safarova.
Williams has won all eight of the pair’s previous meetings but the American insists she will need to be at her very best to be crowned champion again.
“Lucie has been in great form here, she has beaten some tough opponents and I know she always plays well against me,” said Williams. “I’m going to have to play really well to win.”