MELBOURNE – This was, in some ways, rather difficult to watch: 40-year-old Venus Williams gasped and groaned as she limped around the court at the Australian Open on an injured right ankle and left knee.
This also was, in some ways, rather inspiring to watch: Williams refused to concede to the pain, declined to stop playing and toughed it out. She saw the second-round match through to the end, no matter how compromised her body was after two medical timeouts, no matter how non-existent her chance of victory was.
After getting hurt heading to the net for a volley while down 5-1 in the opening set of a second-round match Wednesday, Williams would not — could not, in all likelihood — win another game at Melbourne Park and was eliminated by Sara Errani of Italy.
The final score was 6-1, 6-0.
“I thought she would retire, because she wasn't running. She was walking badly. ... I was worrying about her more than thinking about how I should play,” said Errani, the runner-up at the 2012 French Open. “I was thinking, ‘Who knows? Maybe at a certain point she’ll say enough is enough.' But instead, she continued right up until the end.”
Indeed, there was no quit in Williams — much like there hasn't been for years for someone who has played while dealing with Sjogren’s syndrome, an energy-sapping auto-immune disease that can cause joint pain.
The oldest woman in the field, she was playing in her 21st Australian Open and 88th Grand Slam tournament overall, a record for the professional era.
She has won seven major singles championships and another 14 in doubles with her sister, Serena.