LONDON (AP) - For 2 ½ hours, Venus Williams traded big serves and hard groundstrokes with Petra Kvitova on Centre Court. Williams was playing with some of the power and pace that had brought her five Wimbledon titles. But when it was over, she was left with a sense of disappointment.
"The battle is always a little more enjoyable when you win," Williams said Friday after coming within two points of victory but losing 5-7, 7-6 (2), 7-5 to Kvitova, the 2011 champion.
All four of their previous meetings went to three sets and this one was no different, with plenty of suspense, intensity, and only a few break points.
Williams looked stronger early in the match and was up 5-4, 15-30 on Kvitova's serve, in the second set. But the Czech came up with some big serves, held and won the second set tiebreaker.
The players then held serve for the first 11 games of the third set before Kvitova broke No. 30 Williams for the first time in the last game.
"It's a shame there had to be a loser in this match and more of a shame that it had to be me," Williams said.
Despite the loss, Williams had reasons to feel positive about her week in London.
At the age of 34, she has been playing well this season, winning a title in Dubai and reaching the final in Auckland and Miami. This week, she got to the third round at a Grand Slam tournament for only the second time in her past 10 appearances. After her battle with Kvitova, she reiterated that retirement is not in her plans.
More than that, Williams still believes in her ability to add to her total of seven Grand Slams.
"People have been trying to retire me since I was like 25. For some reason in tennis we always do that to our players. It's weird," said Williams, who disclosed three years ago that she was diagnosed with an energy-sapping autoimmune disease.
"We don't encourage them to stick around," she added. "It's like, 'Get out of here.' So I'm not getting out of here. I think this year has been a great year for me. I've had some tough losses, but I've learned a lot from them. I'm finding my way back on my feet. I'm proud of myself for what I'm achieving on the court."
The former No. 1 is next scheduled to play in Cincinnati and Montreal. She said she might add more tournaments to her summer schedule to keep improving her game.
"So that way I'll just have a chance, when it's really time to play good tennis, I would have had those matches under my belt," she said.