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Bowing out at Wimbledon is not a curtain call for Williams

VENUS WILLIAMS just isn't the retiring type.

Venus Williams lost yesterday but was content with her display. Picture: EPA
Venus Williams lost yesterday but was content with her display. Picture: EPA

The five-times Wimbledon champion will be 35 years of age by the time next year's tournament comes around but do not expect her to shuffle from the stage just yet.

Martina Navratilova was still capturing SW19 titles in her forties and Kimiko Date-Krumm is still going strong at 43, while the elder Williams sister shows a similar desire to defy the best efforts of many to put her out to grass. Indeed, instead of playing fewer matches, Venus went off into the night emboldened enough by her performance in a 5-7, 7-6 (2), 7-5 defeat by Petra Kvitova, the 2011 winner, to speak of adding more tournaments to her schedule.

"People have been trying to retire me since I was like 25," Venus said, in a barb at her critics in the media. "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. This year has been a great year for me. I've had some tough losses but I've learned a lot from them. I'm proud of myself for what I'm achieving on the court."

And so she should be. Certainly at points during this match, as she held her own against her Czech opponent, it was easy to forget that this was the same woman who in 2011 was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, a debilitating illness which sapped her energy. Kvitova, who made twice as many unforced errors as her opponent, acknowledged the result could have been different. "I think she's playing really, really well," said the 24-year-old of Williams. "I think that she can win some titles again."

Kvitova was not the only Czech celebrating at the All England Club yesterday. The biggest shock of the day came on Court No.1, where No.2 seed Li Na fell 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) to Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, the world No.43. While the 28-year-old from Plzen gloried in the "biggest win of her career", the Australian Open champion blamed her exit on her lack of tune-up matches on grass. As if to illustrate the point, Zahlavova Strycova had reached the final in Birmingham.

"I needed some matches before the big one," said Li. "I always play Eastbourne but it is always raining and windy. I say 'okay, I cannot practice in that'. So I made a decision and came here pretty early to practise on a grass court."

Zahlavova Strycova was also asked to comment on the topic of the day, the All England Club's hardline stance on white on-court clothing which extends to underwear checks for players. "If we're playing in white then we should wear white underwear," she said. "But it's kind of weird officials coming and checking."

Facing the Czech in the next round is the other story of the tournament, Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki, who won 6-3, 6-0 against Croatian youngster Ana Konjuh. Coincidentally or not, Wozniaki has now equalled her best run at this tournament, just months after her high-profile split from her fiance, golfer Rory McIlroy.

"My private life has nothing to do with my tennis," she said. "When I'm out there, it's a yellow ball, white lines, it's about playing it over the net and inside the lines more than your opponent. But to play good tennis, your head has to be there. I'm in a good place in my head right now mentally. I think that shows on court as well."

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