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Venus Williams leaves match with injury

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 03:54 PM
MELBOURNE, Australia -

Venus Williams had played 251 Grand Slam matches and never been forced to retire because of an injury.

It took all of four minutes for that streak to end.

Williams, a seven-time major winner, spent more than 48 hours agonizing over whether she'd be ready for the third round of the Australian Open. She decided to go ahead, hoping enough adrenalin would kick in to allow her to play through the pain.

Williams was ailing after her second-round victory, her ability to move severely restricted. Waiting for her in the third round was 30th-seeded Andrea Petkovic. Williams took the court on a cool Friday night at Rod Laver Arena "just hoping for some magic."

The match was over almost before it began. Williams won just one of the seven points she played before she bent over in pain, clutching her right side. She knew she had to stop.

"A lot of times when you play ... you get this adrenalin that blocks pain," she said. "But I just didn't get enough of that today. Obviously, I just couldn't play. I couldn't move. It was too painful."

A lunge to her right side on the last point aggravated a muscle in her hip that she hurt Wednesday night against Sandra Zahlavova. Her thigh was heavily bandaged Friday.

"The last 48 hours I did as much pain management and recovery that I could. I just hit some balls ... just kind of standing still," she said. "Just kind of warming up standing still and trying to give my best for the match.

"I've never had to retire from a Grand Slam, especially after working so hard to pull out the match the other day. ... It's super disappointing because this is just not how I envisioned my Australian Open being."

Things are looking far better for defending champion Roger Federer. Federer, the second seed, beat Xavier Malisse 6-3, 6-3, 6-1, a vast improvement on his five-set second-round win over Gilles Simon.

Top-seeded Rafael Nadal played 18-year-old Australian wild card Bernard Tomic overnight. Nadal was trying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles at once. Nadal made a quarterfinal exit in Australia last year, then won the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Second-seeded Vera Zvonareva kept alive her bid for a third consecutive Grand Slam final, beating Lucie Safarova 6-3, 7-6 (9) on Saturday to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Zvonareva served for the match twice but was extended to the tiebreaker. Safarova led 4-2 and 5-3 in the tiebreaker before Zvonareva finally sealed it on her fourth match point.

She lost the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals last year. If she goes one better and wins the Australian title, Zvonareva can move into the No. 1 ranking.

No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska advanced over Simona Halep 6-1, 6-2.

On the men's side, fourth-seeded Robin Soderling beat Czech qualifier Jan Hernych 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.

No. 8 Andy Roddick overcame a slow start before powering to victory, stopping Robin Haase 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-2.

No. 6 Tomas Berdych, No. 9 Fernando Verdasco and No. 19 Stanislas Wawrinka advanced. Wawrinka defeated No. 12 Gael Monfils 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-3 and will meet Roddick in the next round.

No. 3 Novak Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open champion, was leading Viktor Troicki 6-2 when his Serbian Davis Cup teammate retired because of a stomach muscle strain.

That was hours before Venus Williams stepped on the court. Younger sister Serena, the defending champion, withdrew because of a foot injury

Venus hasn't won a major since Wimbledon in 2008 and been in a Grand Slam final since Wimbledon in 2009. She's never won the Australian title, her best finish a runner-up to Serena in 2003.

"Well, I'm still pretty good, even when I'm injured," she said, pointing to her run to the U.S. Open semifinals last September as evidence. "I mean, at the Open I came pretty close to winning that tournament just on a hope and a prayer and little to no preparation."

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