Venus Williams fought through the pain of an ankle and knee injury during her match with Italian Sara Errani at the Australian Open on Wednesday, refusing to give up until she could no longer play, leaving the second round with a 6-1, 6-0 loss.
The seven-time Grand Slam winner and two-time finalist in Australia started the match with her knee taped and twisted her right ankle as she trailed 1-5 in the set opener. She limped to her chair and was examined by a match doctor.
It looked as though she would retire, but she got extra bandages on the ankle and knee and came back onto the court as the Melbourne Park audience applauded. But as she played, it became evident that she was in pain, and her normally graceful movements were severely hindered. Eventually there was no way she could win the set and Errani took the victory and headed to the third round to face Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei.
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Williams, 40, who was playing in her 21st Australian Open and record 88th Grand Slam tournament overall. has managed to remain viable in the field despite living with Sjogren’s syndrome. This autoimmune disease affects her joints and muscles.
The condition has not stopped her from competing and she hasn’t indicated that she is retiring from tennis, the sport in which she and her sister, Serena, are widely considered among the greatest of all time.
But in this match, the injury was too much for her to continue. However, even Errani remarked at her resilience and willingness to play despite the awful pain.
“I thought she would retire, because she wasn’t running. She was walking badly. … I was worrying about her more than thinking about how I should play,” said Errani, according to the Associated Press. “I was thinking, ‘Who knows? Maybe at a certain point she’ll say enough is enough.’ But instead, she continued right up until the end.”
In a moving Instagram post Williams says that she has no regrets about giving it her all.