WIMBLEDON, England — A grand and glorious tennis career that began on the public courts of Compton and was nurtured by a proud and ambitious father edged closer to the end at Wimbledon on Friday.
Or maybe not.
Venus Williams went out in the third round. She is 34, is living with a condition called Sjogren’s syndrome that can bring unusual fatigue, has won five titles here, but hasn’t sniffed one since she got to the final in 2009 and lost to her sister Serena.
This was a third-round match against a talented opponent, 2011 champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic. The final score was 5-7, 7-6 (2), 7-5. It might have been even closer than the score.
“There were three break points in the entire match,” said Tracy Austin, the former major champion, who was a commentator on the broadcast here. “You were on the edge of your chair the entire time.”
So when Williams seemed to tire near the end, and dumped her last shot on match point into the bottom of the net, the first thought was that this might be a last hurrah for her at a place that she has loved and been loved.
But her public stance is that she will soldier on.
“People have been trying to retire me since I was like 25,” she said. “For some reason in tennis, we always do that to our players. It’s weird. We don’t encourage them to stick around. It’s like, get out of here.
“So, I’m not getting out of here.”
She said she might even add a tournament or two to her summer schedule, which already includes commitments at Cincinnati and Montreal.
And she said she is still geared up here to advance in the doubles with Serena. Together, they have won 13 Grand Slam doubles titles and three Olympic doubles gold medals.
She spoke to the quality of her match with Kvitova, as per Austin’s assessment.
“It’s a shame there had to be a loser in this match,” she said, “and more a shame that it had to be me.”
Statistics usually tell the story, but in this match, they did not.
Kvitova, seeded No. 6 and 10 years younger, had 48 winners to Williams’ 25. But Kvitova had 34 unforced errors to Williams’ 19.
“I think the match just showed how great a battle it was from both of us,” Kvitova said. “She’s a huge player, a big champion. We all have respect for her.”
Was this the best match she had played since the year she won here?
“Yes,” Kvitova said. “I think can say that.”
She also said, further confirming Austin’s assessment, “I think both of us tried everything we could.”
Williams has been playing in major tournaments since 1997. She got to the final of the U.S. Open that year when she was 17. Her father, Richard, taught her the game and continues to have involvement in her coaching, and her sister’s.
Serena is seeded No. 1 here and has also won five Wimbledon singles titles, three of them with Venus across the net in the final.
Venus was asked what was at the core of her sister’s ongoing success, at her age of 32, soon to be 33.
As she watches Serena, Venus says, “I’m fighting with her. I’m standing, rocking back and forth, almost hitting the ball. I’m pretty much right there with her, fighting.”