Paris - Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams insisted on Monday that retirement is not on her agenda despite suffering her earliest French Open exit in 12 years.
The 32-year-old American slumped to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (4/7), 6-4 loss to Poland's Urszula Radwanska, 10 years her junior, in the first round on Sunday, her worst result since losing Barbara Schett at the same stage in 2001.
Troubled by a back injury in recent weeks, the 30th-seeded American had mounted a stirring comeback in the second set tiebreak, clawing her way from 0/4 down to reel off seven points in succession.
But the effort was too much as Radwanska, the younger sister of world number four Agnieszka, took the tie on a second match point to make the last 64 for the second year in succession where she'll face German qualifier Dinah Pfizenmaier.
Williams, who lost to Agnieszka in the second round in Paris in 2012, believes that if she can quickly cure her back ailment, which has slammed the brakes on her service action, she can still confound the doubters in the grasscourt season which lies ahead.
"My strategy was more or less to put the ball in, and that's very difficult for me because that's not who I am. But that's all I had. So that was challenging to be conservative on the serve and then go to be aggressive during the point," she explained after her epic out on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
"It changes your mindset. That's a little challenging. I want my serve back. I'm going to try to get it back for Wimbledon."
Williams, a five-time Wimbledon champion, believes she still has a role to play on the courts, if not as a winner anymore then as a role model to other sufferers of Sjogren's Syndrome, the illness that kept her off tour for seven months between 2011 and 2012.
"What I've gone through, it's not easy. But I'm strong and I'm a fighter. I don't think I'm just playing for me now. I think I'm playing for a lot of people who haven't felt well," she said.
"I would never give up because, you know, obviously at some point everyone has to retire. You know, that's an asterisk, but I feel like I have to give myself a chance to continue working on feeling better.
"I wouldn't just give up just because it was difficult. I'm going to keep continue trying. I had a very challenging year last year, but I had many successes, as well. So I'm continuing to look forward to more successes."
And after 16 appearances at the French Open, where her best result remains her runner-up spot to sister Serena in 2002, was on Sunday's three hour 19-minute marathon the last time she will make it to Roland Garros?
"If it's the last match at Roland Garros, I'll let you know. That's pretty much how it works," said the defiant American.