- Associated Press - Friday, January 21, 2011

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Clutching her side and crying out in pain, Venus Williams lasted just seven points Friday at the Australian Open and withdrew from a Grand Slam singles match for the first time.

After losing the first game of her third-round match to Germany’s Andrea Petkovic and trailing in the second, Williams stretched to her right to return a serve. She hit the ball and then reached toward the right side of her stomach. It was soon clear she had to stop.

“Obviously, I just couldn’t play,” the seven-time Grand Slam winner said. “I couldn’t move. It was too painful.”

Her withdrawal came on a day when 11th-seeded Justine Henin was beaten by No. 23 Svetlana Kuznetsova. No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, her comic touch in excellent form after the match, and No. 14 Maria Sharapova also advanced. Winning on the men’s side were No. 2 Roger Federer, No. 3 Novak Djokovic, No. 6 Tomas Berdych and No. 8 Andy Roddick.

Williams‘ right thigh was already heavily bandaged from an injury she sustained in the first set of her second-round match Wednesday — a three-set victory over Sandra Zahlavova.

Williams said the injury was in the muscle that flexes the hip and spinal column.

“The last 48 hours, I just did as much pain management as I could,” she said. “A lot of times when you play, you get that adrenalin and that blocks pain. I just didn’t get enough of that today. I was hoping for some magic that I could recover.”

The 30-year-old Williams waved to the Rod Laver Arena crowd and appeared on the verge of tears as she walked off the court. Her younger sister, defending champion Serena, is not playing at Melbourne Park because of a foot injury.

“It’s super disappointing because this is just not how I envisioned my Australian Open being,” Venus Williams said. “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.”

Petkovic was surprised by the sudden end.

“I feel very weird about how the things went,” she said. “It’s a pity, and I feel very sorry. I just hope she gets better. She’s such a great champion.”

Henin, the 2010 finalist, was beaten Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam winner, 6-4, 7-6 (8) in the third round.

Wozniacki provided as much fanfare in her post-match news conference as she did during her 6-4, 6-3 win over Dominika Cibulkova. Pretending to be irritated at being considered “boring” by some critics, she came prepared with a monologue to answer any question that might be asked about the match, and then some.

“I always gave the same answers,” Wozniacki said. “I find it quite funny because I always get the same questions, so I’m just going to start with the answer.”

What transpired was one of the funniest schticks at the tiered news conference room under Rod Laver Arena. Once she got the usual match comments out of the way, Wozniacki had a chance to be asked about global warming, her prowess on the piano, the game of cricket and what she’s looking for in a boyfriend.

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