Venus Williams is out of the ASB Classic - and who knows if she will be back again?

The American withdrew with injury after her first round 7-6 (2) 6-2 win over Kiwi wildcard Jade Lewis, citing an arm injury that caused pain when serving.

Williams has been one of the most popular players of the modern era at Stanley Street, with her style on the court and her grace off it.

But she was tipped to retire after the Rio Olympics and will turn 37 in June, so this could be her last year on tour.

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Her exit is a blow for the tournament, but she can't be criticized after all she has contributed since 2014.

"It's obviously disappointing but I think if any player deserves a little bit of grace, it is probably Venus Williams," said tournament director Karl Budge. "We owe her a hell of a lot for what she has done for this tournament over the years."

Williams, who will remain in Auckland for a few days for some publicity appearances, issued a brief statement.

"I love this tournament and I'm really sad that I have had to withdraw, but I'm happy to have had the opportunity to have been here again this year," said Williams.

If the Williams news was a blow, the performance of Lewis was a bonus.

There is a long way to go for the 18-year-old, but her battling display confirmed the view that Lewis is the most promising prospect to emerge out of this country in years.

This was meant to be one of the biggest mismatches in years; a seven time grand slam winner, who has played over 900 matches across more than two decades on tour, against a Kiwi kid taking her first bow at this level.

It didn't turn out that way. Lewis pushed Williams to the limit, and was one poorly struck forehand away from claiming the first set, when she held a set point at 5-4.

It wasn't to be - as Lewis lost her composure in the tiebreak and then lost focus in the second set, as the emotional energy of the first set seemed to take its toll - but what an effort.

Unlike many young Kiwis on centre court over the past decade - who have looked beaten before they began - Lewis looked like she belonged.

The first set was an untidy affair, with six breaks of serve as both players struggled in the windy conditions. Lewis had the ascendency for most of it - serving for the set at 5-4 and 6-5 - but couldn't strike the killer blow.

"I have to believe in myself that I can play that well against someone who is top in the world," said Lewis. "I played well in the first set but I think I could have played better. It was definitely the occasion and who I was playing that made me miss a couple of shots that if I was playing someone else I wouldn't have missed. It just comes with it and is experience every time."

Williams was impressed by her opponent.

"I loved her intensity," said Williams. "She wanted to win and she expected a lot from herself so those are all the things you want to see in a young player. I think she can do a lot in this game, I really do."‚Äč