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Posted by gauloises1 on January 21, 2011

It was a sad night for all concerned when Venus Williams was forced to retire against Andrea Petkovic after just one game on Rod Laver Arena last night, due to the hip flexor injury she sustained against Zahlalova Strycova in the previous round.

There’s a lot about this that is open to question, including the reaction from some of the crowd as she walked off with a few boos and whistles heard, and the decision by the tournament director to schedule her match for the night session on Rod Laver – supposedly to give her the maximum time to recover, which is a sensible enough reason. At the risk of being insulting, I can understand the reaction from the crowd to some extent, though – you’ve got a beered-up, late night crowd who have paid to see tennis, waited patiently for the women’s match to start, and then only get to see one game. In the heat of the moment, it would be easy to be pissed off, and that’s the reaction that the scheduling exposed Venus to. They could have put her on Hisense for the night match and it would have protected her somewhat, but I suppose they couldn’t afford to miss the chance of a spectacle. And so it proved.

One thing that’s not open to question is Venus’ courage in even attempting to play. She said in her presser that she didn’t know how her body would react under match conditions, and that she was hoping for a surge of adrenaline that would let her play through pain. From the sound of things, Oracene didn’t even want her to play the tournament at all, and she certainly risked making the injury much worse by attempting to fulfill her obligations. It’s the first match she’s retired in since 2004 and her first ever retirement in a Slam. She would have done anything to avoid it, but the pain provoked by changing direction or taking the racquet back was visible. She put the game and competing above her own best interests and did her best to do what she had to do. It’s not necessarily wise, but it’s worthy of respect.

The inevitable questions about how long she can keep playing are already being bandied around. As far as I’m concerned, I just hope she heals well from this latest injury and gets to play as long as she wants to.

So Venus goes home – I hope she’s not making herself fly economy this time – and Andrea Petkovic is through to her second consecutive fourth round at a Slam (the last one, incidentally, was via a walkover). She handled a difficult situation with great class and will face Maria Sharapova next. At least she had a little time to get used to Rod Laver …

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