London – Serena Williams was at the centre of a Wimbledon health scare when she appeared to be close to fainting in a doubles match with sister Venus before retiring after just three games.

Serena, the 32-year-old world number one singles player, called the doctor to Court One just after she and Venus had warmed up for their second round women's doubles match against Kristina Barrois and Stephanie Voegele.

She broke down in tears as she consulted with the doctor and physio before the tournament referee and supervisor were also called to court in a reflection of her status in the sport.

After a 15-minute delay, during which she also had her blood pressure monitored, Serena served up four double faults in her first service game, wobbled on the baseline before Venus led her back to her chair by the hand.

Umpire Kader Nouni, having already come down from his chair to talk to the Americans, announced that Serena was retiring from the match through illness with the sisters trailing 3-0.

Later Tuesday, the WTA Tour said that Serena was suffering from “a viral illness”.

Serena had been knocked out of the singles by Alize Cornet in the fourth round while Venus made the third round where she was defeated by Petra Kvitova.

The American has suffered health problems in the past, notably enduring life-threatening blood clots in 2011. – Sapa-AFP