Venus Williams refused to give up after suffering an injury against Italian Sara Errani and fought through pain before bowing out of the Australian Open second round with a 6-1 6-0 defeat on Wednesday.
The 40-year-old American, a seven-time Grand Slam winner and twice finalist at Melbourne Park, started the match with a taped left knee and twisted her right ankle trying to approach the net while trailing 1-5 in the opening set.
Williams shrieked in pain before hobbling to her chair to receive medical attention and a retirement looked imminent by the American.
But after receiving heavy strapping on her ankle and extra taping on the knee she returned to court amid wide applause from those present at the John Cain Arena.
Williams did not win another game with her movement severely hampered during the rest of the match as she hobbled between points with pain reflecting prominently on her face.
Williams brushed off a question about her age after defeating Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in her opening round and on Wednesday put up an emotional post on Instagram after exiting her 21st Australian Open.
“You can’t always prepare for the triumph or the disaster in sports or in life. You can’t control it all. What you can control is how you handle the ups and the downs,” she wrote.
“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. Always look forward, the deepest dream you have could be...”
Williams left the court to another round of applause as qualifier Errani set up a third round clash against Taiwanese veteran Hsieh Su-wei, who defeated 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu 6-3 6-2 earlier.
“I’m not happy to win like that,” the 134th-ranked Errani said. “I’m so sad for her. It isn’t easy playing someone injured.
“I was a bit shocked when she was like that. I didn’t understand what she had, so we stopped. I was scared.”