She tried. Venus Williams came to Rod Laver Arena hoping, she said, "for some magic." "A lot of times when you play, you get that adrenalin and that blocks pain," Williams said to the press after her retirement at 0-1 in the third round in Melbourne. The 4th seed sustained a painful groin injury in the second round, but played through it. But after playing one game in which she was broken by Andrea Petkovic, Williams--while trying to return a serve--let out a cry of pain, and the match was over.
This is the first time in her long career that Williams has retired during a major. She came to the Australian Open after undergoing rehabilitation for her knee, and now--with only two matches played--she is out of competition again. Williams doesn't talk much about her injuries, but we can make a reasonable guess that this latest incident is going to require some special coping on her part.
It's also reasonable for fans to ask "How much longer?" Williams is 30, and she has always played a very physical game of tennis. She and her sister, Serena, have their eyes on the 2012 Olympic Games, which suddenly seem far away in time. Williams says she will not play again until she knows she is completely healthy. Williams is an accomplished person off of the courts, so she isn't going to slide into a state of boredom, which is a breeding ground for all kinds of bad things. I have no idea how much time will be involved in her recovery.
There were some "fans" in Melbourne who booed Williams when she retired. Jon Wertheim's reasonable guess is that these were the "party fans" who had no idea what had transpired in the second round; they didn't know that Williams was already injured. (He also points out that perhaps other players should have been given the night match.) Of course, I think the booing is inappropriate even if one didn't know about the second round occurrence. It is especially inappropriate when it is directed at a player who would rather go out bandaged from head to toe than retire from a match.
As for the rest of us--we'll just have to wait for the rehab reports. Andrea Petkovic will play Maria Sharapova in the next round. Petkovic got a walkover from Peng Shuai in the third round of the U.S. Open, but lost to eventual finalist Vera Zvonareva in the round of 16.