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Serena Williams suffers shock loss at Australian Open, ending record bid

She was sensationally knocked out in the third round by China’s Wang Qiang.

Serena Williams of the United States of America shows her frustration.
Serena Williams of the United States of America shows her frustration.

SERENA WILLIAMS was sensationally knocked out of the Australian Open third round by China’s Wang Qiang on Friday, torpedoing her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam crown.

Williams, 38, was the bookies’ favourite to win an eighth title at Melbourne Park but she came unstuck against a determined Wang, who took only one game off the American last time they met.

The 6-4, 6/7 (2/7), 7-5 upset means Williams, whose last Major win was at the 2017 Australian Open when she was pregnant, has fallen short at eight Grand Slams since returning from having a baby in 2018.

“I think my team always believed I can do it,” said 27th seed Wang, who lost 6-1, 6-0 to Williams in last year’s US Open quarter-finals.

“After last time I did really hard work on and off court, I believed I could do it.”

Her reward is a clash with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who upset Williams’ close friend Caroline Wozniacki, sending the Dane into retirement.

Williams, seeded eight, started slowly against the fast, positive Wang, and she was three break points down in the ninth game when Wang punched away a forehand to grab the break.

Serving for the set, Wang won a full-blooded rally to bring up set point and then sealed it to go one set up — a far cry from their last meeting in New York.

Williams came out firing for the second set but her chances plunged when she was broken to go 3-2 down, and it looked all over when she let Wang off the hook on break point in the eighth.

However, Wang wobbled when she was serving for the match and Williams won a titanic 24-shot rally to break the Chinese player for the first time, raising her arms in triumph.

Williams staved off more break points before dominating the tie-breaker, where she benefited from another net cord and a Hawk-Eye review before levelling the match with a service winner.

In the tense final set, both players held firm but Wang pounced when Williams was serving to stay in it, converting her third match point as the American netted. 

Wang received a torrent of criticism from Chinese fans after her capitulation to Williams in the last eight at Flushing Meadows.

The 28-year-old from Tianjin has now achieved her deepest Australian Open run, after reaching the third round last year — a prelude to her best Major performance, at the US Open.

tennis-jan-24-australian-open Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns the ball during the third round of the 2020 Australian Open. Source: Jason Heidrich

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic barely got out of first gear in a sizzling performance to thrash Yoshihito Nishioka and move into the Australian Open fourth round Friday, closing in on a record eighth title.

The Serbian defending champion swept past the Japanese 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in just 85 minutes on Rod Laver Arena to reach a Grand Slam round of 16 for the 50th time — second only to Roger Federer’s 67.

“That’s definitely one of the best service matches I have had lately,” said the world number two after firing down 17 aces, along with 40 winners.

“I was inspired by my coach Goran (Ivanisevic) who came out here today. He brings a lot of insight.”

He will next play 14th seed Diego Schwartzman for a place in the quarter-finals after the Argentinian beat Djokovic’s countryman Dusan Lajovic 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (9/7). 

Diego is definitely one of the quickest on tour. Hopefully if I serve as good as I did today, I feel I have a decent chance,” said the second seed.

Djokovic gave away just three games in his first and only meeting with left-hander Nishioka in the Davis Cup last year and the 24-year-old fared little better at Melbourne Park.

He was broken in his first service game and was no match for the power and precision of the 16-time Grand Slam winner.

Djokovic twisted the knife with another early break in the second set as he went through the gears. 

Nishioka became despondent with Djokovic doing no wrong, winning 34 points in a row on his serve before a double fault brought the run to a halt.

He wrapped up the one-sided rout when Nishioka sent a forehand wide.

Djokovic is seeking to become only the third man to win eight or more titles at the same Grand Slam after Rafael Nadal (12 at Roland Garros) and Roger Federer (eight at Wimbledon).

© – AFP 2020  

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