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Venus bows out in Australia ; Hip injury forces her to quit third-round match

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Venus Williams had played 251 Grand Slam matches and never once been forced to retire because of injury.

It took all of four minutes for that streak to end.

The seven-time major winner spent more than 48 hours agonizing over whether she'd be ready for the third round of the Australian Open. She decided to go ahead, hoping enough adrenaline would kick in to allow her to play through the pain.

Williams was ailing after her second-round victory, her ability to move severely restricted. Waiting for her in the third round was 30th-seeded Andrea Petkovic. Williams took the court on a cool Friday night at Rod Laver Arena "just hoping for some magic."

The match was over almost before it began. Williams won just one of the seven points she played before she bent over in pain, clutching her right side. She knew she had to stop.

"A lot of times when you play you get this adrenaline that blocks pain," she said. "But I just didn't get enough of that. Obviously, I just couldn't play. I couldn't move. It was too painful."

The lunge to her right side on the last point aggravated a muscle in her hip that she hurt Wednesday night against Sandra Zahlavova. Her thigh was heavily bandaged when she walked on the court Friday.

"The last 48 hours I did as much pain management and recovery that I could. I just hit some balls just kind of standing still," she said. "Just kind of warming up standing still and trying to give my best for the match.

"I've never had to retire from a Grand Slam, especially after working so hard to pull out the match the other day. It's super disappointing because this is just not how I envisioned my Australian Open being."

In Saturday action, second-seeded Vera Zvonareva kept alive her bid for a third consecutive Grand Slam final, beating Lucie Safarova 6-3, 7-6 (9) to reach the fourth round.

On the men's side, fourth-seeded Robin Soderling beat Czech qualifier Jan Hernych 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 to extend his 2011 winning streak to eight matches. He started the year by winning the Brisbane International, beating Andy Roddick in the final.

Top-seeded Rafael Nadal plays 18-year-old Australian wild card Bernard Tomic tonight. The Spaniard is trying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles at once. Nadal made a quarterfinal exit in Australia last year, then won the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

No. 8 Andy Roddick overcame a slow start before powering to victory with 32 aces, stopping Robin Haase, 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-2.

No. 6 Tomas Berdych, No. 9 Fernando Verdasco and No. 19 Stanislas Wawrinka advanced. Wawrinka defeated No. 12 Gael Monfils, 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-3, and will meet Roddick in the next round.

No. 3 Novak Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open champion, was leading Viktor Troicki, 6-2, when his Serbian Davis Cup teammate retired because of a stomach muscle strain.

That was hours before Williams stepped on the court. She was the only Williams sister in the draw, and had a lot to live up to. Younger sister Serena, the defending champion, withdrew because of a foot injury

Their mother and coach, Oracene Price, said Venus should not have even traveled to Australia as well because of recent injuries. She spoke during the post-match news conference from a seat in the auditorium after Venus directed a question to her.

Venus hasn't won a major since Wimbledon in 2008 and been in a Grand Slam final since Wimbledon in 2009. She's never won the Australian title, her best finish a runner-up to Serena in 2003.

"Well, I'm still pretty good, even when I'm injured," she said, pointing to her run to the U.S. Open semifinals last September as evidence. "I mean, at the Open I came pretty close to winning that tournament just on a hope and a prayer and little to no preparation."

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