Former Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani is through to the third round of a Grand Slam singles event for the first time since the 2015 US Open after advancing Wednesday at the Australian Open. But the heart of her opponent, Venus Williams, is what will be remembered most from their meeting on John Cain Arena.
Errani moved forward, 6-1, 6-0, though the scoreline needs an explanation. The Italian won five of the first six games to storm out to a considerable lead. Then, her encounter with the seven-time major singles champion took a sad turn.
Serving to stay in the set, Venus rushed the net but rolled her right ankle during her split step. She immediately hobbled in pain and let out a distressful howl before safely getting to her player bench.
Play was stopped for more than 15 minutes, as Venus had her ankle taped, plus her her left knee, which was previously strapped. She took painkillers and tested her legs before resuming. No warm-up was held.
Unable to push off on her serve and her movement greatly compromised, Venus valiantly refused to throw in the towel by swinging without margin to shorten points. Errani showed no restraint in lengthening rallies with looping groundstrokes, and exploited her opponent’s discomfort by carving drop shots and widening the court with methodical angles.
Venus had 0-40 on Errani’s serve in the third game of the second set and held a game point on serve in the final game. The 40-year-old staved off two match points before her final forehand clipped the net.
In a moving post on Instagram, Venus wrote:
"You can’t always prepare for the triumph or the disaster in sports or in life. You can’t control it all. What you can control is how you handle the ups and the downs. No matter the outcome I always hold my head high and I leave everything I have on the court. I never look back in regret because no matter the odds I give it all. You don’t have to look back when you leave it all out there. Always look forward, the deepest dream you have could be..."
For a place in the round of 16, Errani will take on Hsieh Su-wei, who knocked out No. 8 seed Bianca Andreescu, 6-3, 6-2.