Serena Williams has crahed out of the ongoing Australian Open after suffering a shock defeat in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. She blew four match points before losing in three sets to Karolina Pliskova.
The 37-year-old lost the first set 6-4 against the seventh-seeded Czech, before winning the second set 6-4 and taking a seemingly unassailable 5-1, 40-30 lead in the decider.
On her first match point, Williams injured her left ankle in a foot fault and immediately looked uncomfortable and frustrated as the match progressed.
Pliskova is the fourth player to beat Williams twice or more in Grand Slam tournaments.
“I can’t say that I choked on those match points,” Williams was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “She literally played her best tennis ever on those shots.”
The 23-time Grand Slam tournament winner, however, declined to blame her loss on her injury: “My ankle is fine, maybe I’ll feel it tomorrow,” she said. “I think she played incredible on match points, just hitting lines. I didn’t call the trainer out because I didn’t feel I needed it.”
Pliskova admitted she thought her chances of reaching a second semifinal at the Australian Open were as good as gone when Williams took a 5-1 lead.
“I think she improved her game in the second set, went for her shots,” she said in an interview courtside. “I got a little tight, played too passive. But I’m standing here as the winner, so I’m happy. My mind was in the locker room at 5-1 down in the third. I didn’t have many chances. She got a little bit shaky in the end and I took my chances.”
The defeat to Pliskova brought down the curtain on the prospect of Williams facing Naomi Osaka in what would have been a rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, which the Japanese won 6-2, 6-4.