Venus Williams suffered a muscle injury in the second round of the Australian Tennis Open on Wednesday, describing the ailment as one of the toughest to bear in her career, but the fourth seed played through the pain to beat unheralded Czech Sandra Zahlavova 6-7 6-0 6-4.
The 30-year-old American screamed in agony after a volley in the final point of the first set tiebreak and hobbled off court to take a medical time-out between sets at a sun-drenched Rod Laver Arena.
She re-emerged gingerly with her right thigh heavily strapped and despite grimacing in pain throughout, blasted her way through the second set before sealing the win with a big serve that Zahlavova pushed wide.
The seven-time grand slam champion later said she had strained a psoas, a lower back muscle with tendons linked to the spine and hip, and could only hope the injury would "calm down" to allow her to play the next round.
Williams's Melbourne Park campaign is her first tour tournament in four months since suffering a knee injury at last year's U.S. Open.