Australia—In Venus Williams 26 years of her professional career, she always displayed her toughness and grit off the court. Wednesday night was no different.
Williams may not be the winningest, most talented tennis player on the tour — or even in her own family — but nobody has more heart than Venus Williams.
During the end of the first set in her match against Italy’s Sara Errani, Williams rolled her right ankle while charging the net for a volley while down 5-1 in the opening set of a second-round. Williams would not win another game at Melbourne Park and was eliminated by Sara Errani.
The seven-time Grand Slam champion screamed and fought back tears as she limped back to her chair.
The final score was 6-1, 6-0.
“Screams of pain and frustration,” was posted on Williams’ Instagram. “Sometimes you have to let it out. Sometimes you work hard and don’t get the result, but you live to fight another day. I will be back as soon as I can. I will let you know how I am doing tomorrow.”
Action was stopped, and the trainer treated Venus on the sideline, first taping the troubled ankle, then the knee.
Soon after play resumed following a delay of more than 15 minutes, that set was over. Williams returned to her changeover seat and bowed her head, resting it on her arms and lap.
Williams returned to the court and finished out the match fighting through the pain.
Venus Williams would not quit — much like she hasn’t been for years for someone who has played while dealing with Sjogren’s syndrome, an energy-sapping auto-immune disease that causes joint 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, the runner-up at the 2012 French Open. “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.”
Venus played in her 21st Australian Open and 88th Grand Slam tournament overall, a very accomplished career.
Williams has won seven major singles championships and another 14 in doubles with her younger sister, Serena.
Through her long and distinguished career, Williams never has been a person to discuss her injuries or blaming setbacks on them. And so while it seemed clear to others that she was going to have to stop playing against Errani, that never was going to happen.
“I was a bit shocked,” Errani said.
When Venus continued, she had issues walking. Her usual 100 mph serves were tapped in at about 65 mph due to her ankle and knee injury. The injuries prohibited Venus to chase all of the drop shots that Errani kept using to win points.
Though Williams managed to put a point on the board, Errani swiftly took the game to close out the first set.
The pain didn’t subside during the break between sets. Williams tested out her mobility and strength during the break but it was obvious that Venus were in serious pain.
“You can’t always prepare for the triumph or the disaster in sports or in life. You can’t control it all,” Williams wrote. “What you can control is how you handle the ups and the downs. No matter the outcome, I always hold my head high, and I leave everything I have on the court. I never look back in regret because no matter the odds, I give it all. You don’t have to look back when you leave it all out there.”