*Venus Williams was in the middle of a first-set tiebreaker at the Australian Open on Wednesday when the voice of her mother rang out from the players’ box at Rod Laver Arena.
Oracene Price’s urges to “fight” were clearly intended for her daughter, but they appeared to fall on deaf ears, as Venus lost the last point of the tiebreaker, hurting herself on a twisting backhand volley in the process.
Writhing in pain and clutching near her stomach as she walked back to her courtside chair, a WTA trainer was called and Williams took a medical timeout. A few minutes later, though, she returned with her upper right thigh taped and a whole new attitude.
She later said she injured her “psoas” muscle, which flexes the hip and spinal column.
“It was really tough, but I’m a long way from home and it’s such a long way I didn’t want to go back yet,” Williams said after surviving through a 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-4 second-round win over her Czech opponent, Sandra Zahlavova.
“You’ve got to be able to play under all kinds of circumstances — good, bad, strange, weird, all of the above. I had to just calm myself down. In the middle of a match like that, you can get a little hysterical.”
Her fighting spirit — and the strapping and perhaps a painkiller — helped continue a streak in which Williams has completed all 257 singles matches she has started at Grand Slams. Never has she retired with an injury in a major.
Still, she needed some help at the end, asking courtside staff — first chair umpire Alison Lang of Britain, then a ballboy — to help carry off her equipment. Williams was well enough to carry off her glitzy handbag, though, which went with her outfit — a revealing peek-a-boo lattice-style top with a multicolored satin short skirt she later referred to as her “Alice in Wonderland” outfit.