Serena Williams will this week turn to Nick Bollettieri in an attempt to salvage her ailing career, according to an informed source close to the former world No 1 and seven-times Grand Slam singles champion.
It is understood that the 24-year-old, whose ranking has plummeted to No 108 and who announced on Friday that she will not play at Wimbledon this summer because of a knee injury, will travel to Bollettieri's Florida academy tomorrow to seek advice from the veteran coach.
Williams, the Wimbledon champion of 2002 and 2003, is considering using the academy as an occasional base to put her career back on track. Her father, Richard, also wants her to use Bollettieri's expertise.
Serena regularly visited Bollettieri for intensive one-week build-up sessions ahead of each Grand Slam tournament in her heyday, which included winning all four Grand Slam titles back-to-back in 2002-03.
Bollettieri, an Independent columnist, declined to confirm Williams' plans. "Sorry, but on this one, no comment," he said last night. It is known Bollettieri would be willing and available to help, however. He wrote an open letter to Serena earlier this year offering his guidance to help her save her career.
Williams has played only four matches since last year's US Open and has pulled out of a string of tournaments this year. She had knee surgery in 2003 and has not won a title since the last of her Grand Slams, the 2005 Australian Open.
When she arrived in Melbourne to defend that title in January of this year, she was noticeably overweight and unfit. She lost in the third round. When she subsequently fell outside the world's top 100, many observers felt her competitive career was effectively over before her mid-20s. It seems Bollettieri's could now be her last-chance saloon.