Monday December 14th, 2015

Serena Williams was close to withdrawing from the 2015 French Open final because of the flu, she told Sports Illustrated’s S.L. Price. 

Williams is Sports Illustrated’s 2015 Sportsperson of the Year, in large part because she won three Grand Slams and completed the second “Serena Slam” — four consecutive Grand Slam titles — of her career. But she almost didn’t take the court in June for the French Open final. 

In the semifinal, despite a 101-degree fever and serious flu symptoms, Williams fought back from down a set and a break to advance past Timea Bacsinszky, winning the third set 6–0. But her victory drained her. 

“I was crying so hard,” Williams told SI. “I didn’t want to win. I just wanted to go home. I said, ‘I can’t play anymore.’”

Serena Williams is SI's 2015 Sportsperson of the Year

The symptoms hadn’t subsided by the next night, the eve of the final. The morning of the championship, she called the tournament referee and warned that she might have to pull out of the final. 

Still feeling ill, she decided to play. No. 13 Lucie Safarova took Williams to a third set, but Williams closed her out 6–2 in the third to claim her third French Open title. 

The following month, Williams won Wimbledon, her fourth straight Grand Slam title. 

For more, read Price’s full cover story on Williams. 

- Stanley Kay

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