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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
News
Justin Bieber performing in Paris earlier this year
people
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil