Tennis saved me during illness - returning Bartoli

Paris - Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli on Wednesday said that she first considered making a professional comeback while suffering from a mystery illness last year.

The Frenchwoman was forced to pull out of an exhibition event at Wimbledon last year because of the virus, which medical experts said was so rare they had no name for it.

But on Tuesday Bartoli announced that she would return to the WTA Tour in 2018, aiming to be ready for the Miami Open in March, after recovering from the illness despite losing 20kg of weight in a matter of months.

"If what happened to me in 2016 hadn't happened, I don't think I would have had that strong feeling of wanting to come back to the court," the 33-year-old said.

"The start of this all came on the most difficult day of my life, when Wimbledon decided not to allow me to play the legends' matches because they thought I could have a heart attack and die on the court.

"From then on, I swore that if one day I was healthy again, I wanted to try to relive what I had been lucky enough to live three years before when I won the tournament.

"What saved me at that time was tennis, by hanging onto the great moments that I lived on court - that's what kept me alive."

Bartoli's finest moment came when she beat German Sabine Lisicki to win the 2013 Wimbledon title, but she hasn't played since after retiring due to a shoulder injury.

The former world number seven, who was also beaten by Venus Williams in the 2007 Wimbledon final, is confident that setting a return date for March isn't too optimistic.

"Mid-March seems realistic with the amount of training to be done," she said.

"The day I play my first match will be a huge victory after what I've been through, and what I do on the court is just a bonus.

"In terms of tennis, I'm at about 80-90 percent of my level from Wimbledon 2013 and physically I'm missing about 40 percent of that level, which at the same time is and isn't a lot of work."

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