Does Venus' first retirement signal end of the Williams era?

Venus Williams insisted that she still had plenty of tennis left in her, but there was an inescapable feeling here yesterday that the women's game was approaching the end of an era.

With her sister Serena still nursing the foot injury that has kept her out for more than six months, a groin muscle problem forced Venus to retire after only seven points of her third-round match in the Australian Open.

Williams' first retirement in her 258th Grand Slam singles match came during the second game against Germany's Andrea Petkovic. Having injured her psoas muscle in her previous match against Sandra Zahlavova, the 30-year-old American strained it again as she stretched to return a serve. "I just couldn't play," she said afterwards. "I couldn't move. It was too painful."

She added: "It's super disappointing because this is just not how I envisioned my Australian Open being, but I have peace of mind that I really gave more than my best to be out there. I'm just going to focus obviously on getting healthy and coming back, because I love tennis and I've got a lot of great tennis in me. I love my job, so no end in sight."

Venus (below) has not won a Grand Slam title since 2008, while Serena won two last year. However, there is still no sign of the younger sister returning after she injured her foot on a piece of glass in a Munich restaurant last July. Serena will be 30 in September and although she has made comebacks in the past following lengthy breaks, she is likely to find it more difficult now that she is approaching veteran status.

With Serena, five times a winner, not making it to the start line, there were only two former Melbourne champions in the field. That was reduced to one after Justine Henin, second favourite to win the title behind her fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters, was beaten 6-4, 7-6 by Svetlana Kuznetsova yesterday.

Henin, playing her first tournament since suffering an elbow injury at Wimbledon, had warned that it would take several months to find her best form and never looked capable of matching her feat of 12 months ago when she reached the final in only her second tournament back after ending her 19-month "retirement".

The former world No 1, who had won 16 of her previous 18 matches against Kuznetsova, made 41 unforced errors and hit nine double-faults. Her Russian opponent, who has slipped to No 26 in the world rankings, has lost weight in the off season and is looking much fitter than she was in the recent past.

Maria Sharapova, the 2008 champion, is now the only former winner left in the field. The 23-year-old Russian beat Germany's Julia Goerges 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to earn a fourth-round meeting with Petkovic. While 11 double-faults were evidence of her continuing struggles to recapture her best form following shoulder surgery, Sharapova is showing glimpses of her old self. Since her triumph here her best Grand Slam performance was a run to the quarter-finals of the French Open in 2009.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, the top seeds in the bottom half of the men's draw, both secured their places in the last 16 with a minimum of fuss. Federer, who had been concerned that he might suffer some after-effects from his late-night thriller against Gilles Simon on Wednesday, beat Belgium's Xavier Malisse 6-3, 6-3, 6-1.

The Swiss, who next plays Spain's Tommy Robredo, said afterwards: "For sure it's not the easiest thing to come back from a five-setter but I managed it. Today was intense too. The first two sets almost didn't reflect how tough it was. I think that maybe broke his will a little bit. He was up 3-1 in the second set. Then I was able to come back and win 11 straight games."

Federer added: "You can't win a Grand Slam in the first week but you can lose it. I'm happy how my body is feeling and I'm moving well."

Djokovic had an even shorter time on court as his Serbian Davis Cup colleague, Viktor Troicki, retired with a stomach strain after losing the first set. The world No 3 now plays Spain's Nicolas Almagro, who beat Ivan Ljubicic 6-4, 7-6, 6-3.

Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing