health

Tennis champ Marion Bartoli's 20kg weight loss was caused by a mystery virus.

In a matter of months, retired tennis champion Marion Bartoli’s appearance has changed dramatically.

The 2013 Wimbledon winner has lost more than 20 kilograms since the beginning of this year, sparking widespread media attention and speculation that she’d been battling an eating disorder.

However, Bartoli has revealed her staggering weight loss is the result of a rare illness doctors have been unable to diagnose.

Initially she’d attributed the change to returning to a ‘healthy lifestyle’ post-retirement, but blood tests revealed the 31-year-old had contracted an unnamed “internal virus” earlier this year.

Bartoli suspects she picked it up while travelling between Australia, the US and India in February, after which her health deteriorated.

Speaking on UK talk show The Morning, the French athlete and commentator described the “horrendous” impact the condition has wreaked on her life.

Image: ITV

“I’m reduced to eating organic salad leaves with cucumber without the skin, because my body can’t even process the skin," she told the show's hosts.

"My body started refusing more and more things ... I can't type on my phone without gloves, I can't wear my jewellery as I get a bad skin reaction."

Bartoli now washes in mineral water to avoid contact with tap water, and limits her use of technological devices to five minutes because any longer results in a heightened heart rate.

Marion Bartoli after winning the 2013 Wimbledon women's final. (Getty images)

"My life right now is an absolute nightmare. I wouldn't wish what I am going through on anyone," she said, admitting she feared for her life.

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"I'm afraid one day my heart will stop ... This is not life. I am just surviving."

The illness has also prevented Bartoli, a former world number seven, from participating in a doubles match she'd been invited to play at Wimbledon this year.

The tournament's officials replaced her with another former player for 'medical reasons'.

After receiving a flurry of negative tweets about her appearance, Bartoli was spurred to talk publicly about her condition and explain it.

"Maybe there are other people around the world suffering the same, and maybe we can all join and be supportive," she explained.

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Image: ITV

She also made it very clear her 20kg weight loss wasn't intentional or the result of disordered eating.

"I want people to understand that I don’t do [this] to myself on purpose ... I love to eat and drink, I love life and I want to be alive," she said.

Bartoli will begin treatment at a clinic in Italy on Monday.

Featured images: Getty/ITV

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