Just hours ahead of her blockbuster second-round showdown with Japanese rising star Naomi Osaka, Venus Williams has withdrawn from the 2017 ASB Classic, citing a right elbow injury that she aggravated earlier in the day during her first-round match against local wildcard Jade Lewis.
Williams Pulls out After First-Round Victory
Following her first-round victory over the 18-year-old wildcard, Williams called tournament director Karl Budge to deliver the bad news in person, who then held a short press conference soon thereafter to announce the 2015 champion’s withdrawal.
“I’ve had some bad news this afternoon. Venus has had to withdraw from the ASB Classic with a right arm injury,” Budge announced. “She felt pain through her match against Jade this afternoon and wasn’t able to serve as she would like to and the level we’ve come to expect from Venus and unfortunately that’s taken her away from the tournament this year.”
“It’s obviously disappointing and a blow for the ASB Classic but if there’s any player that deserves a bit of grace, it’s Venus Williams. We owe her a lot for what she has done for this tournament over a number of years and I don’t think there’s anyone more disappointed than Venus that she can’t go out and play in front of what's almost become a home crowd for her.”
“I'm pretty close with Venus. She’s gutted and so am I but she’s got to do what’s right for her and if she can't perform at 100 percent at this level, you need to make sure you’re making the right decisions,” he concluded.
“I love this tournament and I’m really sad that I have to withdraw, but I’m happy to have had the opportunity to be here again this year,” the five-time Wimbledon winner said in a statement.
Once news of her withdrawal spread, the seven-time Grand Slam champion took to Twitter to apologize to her Kiwi fans and thank them for their unconditional love and support in an understandably frustrating situation for everyone involved.
Williams was set to play WTA Rising Star Naomi Osaka later in the day, but her withdrawal sends the Japanese number two straight into the quarterfinals, where she will play the winner of the match between eighth-seeded Croat Ana Konjuh and Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.
Withdrawal Puts Bitter End to Williams’ Fourth Trip to ASB Classic
Williams’ withdrawal without question puts a bitter end to her fourth trip to the ASB Classic, a tournament she has enjoyed great success at in two of her first three appearances. Making her début in 2014, the five-time Wimbledon champion made the final that year, losing in an entertaining three-set final to a resurgent Ana Ivanovic. With Ivanovic not returning the following year to defend her title, it was Williams who would go one better to succeed the Serb as the newest champion, dropping just one set en route to her 47th career WTA title.
After falling at the first hurdle of her title defence last year, the world number 17 was hoping to return to Auckland, a happy hunting ground, in pursuit of another title. But with a persistent pain in her right elbow now forcing her out of one of her favourite stops on the WTA calendar, the question looms: Will Williams be ready in time for the Australian Open, which begins in less than two weeks’ time?