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.

News
news
New Articles
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
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.

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all