Heather Watson is having to take a break from tennis after being diagnosed with glandular fever. The British No 1, who has been struggling with her form ever since the Australian Open, has returned to her family home in Guernsey from her base in Florida after being told to rest by doctors.
While Watson is hopeful that she will be able to return to competition soon, glandular fever can be a major problem for tennis players. Sweden’s Robin Soderling, a recent world No 4, has not played for nearly three years following his diagnosis, while the illness ended the career of Croatia’s Mario Ancic, a former world No 7.
Watson had a good Australian Open, where she reached the third round, but had been in patchy form since and was troubled by injury. After losing in the first round in Miami a fortnight ago she said she needed to take a break, only to retract her comments the following day. However, she pulled out of a tournament in Charleston this week and blood tests have revealed traces of glandular fever in her system.
“There is no prescription for this other than complete rest but the good news is that the doctors have told me I am at the tail-end of the fever,” Watson told the Lawn Tennis Association’s website. “This means I have been trying to compete through the symptoms for some time.”
She added: “I have been struggling with both training and playing matches and felt so tired and exhausted for months, but now that the doctors have found the cause of this it explains everything that has been happening to me physically and mentally.
“I am actually relieved to know what is wrong so that I can get myself on the mend. I hope to recover as soon as possible by resting my body and getting lots of sleep. I already feel better from being at home for a week and am looking forward to getting back on tour soon.”
Tennis players are believed to be particularly prone to glandular fever, which can be difficult to diagnose, because they consistently push themselves so hard. Justine Henin suffered from a similar condition and was out of the game for several months, though Watson will be hoping that her case will be similar to Roger Federer’s.
Federer went down with glandular fever at the end of 2007, though the illness was not diagnosed until after the 2008 Australian Open, where he won a four-hour marathon against Janko Tipsarevic and went on to reach the semi-finals. He was back playing within a month and reached the finals at the French Open and Wimbledon that summer.
Watson’s illness is a blow for Britain’s Fed Cup team, who will travel to Buenos Aires later this month to contest a play-off for a place in the elite World Group. The singles berths are now likely to be filled by Laura Robson, who will replace Watson as British No 1 in next week’s updated ranking list, and Johanna Konta or Anne Keothavong.