Serena Williams Suffers Shock Australian Open Loss to Karolina Pliskova after Blowing 5-1 Lead and Four Match Points

Serena Williams
Serena Williams reacts after a point against the Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova during their women's singles quarter-final match on day 10 of the Australian Open on January 23. Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

Serena Williams suffered a shock defeat in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Wednesday, as 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. However, on her first match point, Williams rolled her left ankle awkwardly during a foot fault and immediately looked uncomfortable.

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The American, who was bidding to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 slam titles, double-faulted, and Pliskova broke to remain in the game. The 26-year-old then held her serve to pull within two games of Williams before breaking to love for 4-5.

An increasingly frustrated Williams saw Pliskova save two match points in the 10th game and then draw level in the following one, before breaking to love again to take a 6-5 lead.

Despite being increasingly restricted in her movements, Williams managed to save two match points, but Pliskova converted the third to win the match 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, becoming only 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."

Williams's defeat to Pliskova marks the earliest departure the American has suffered at the Australian Open since she lost to Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round in 2014 and put her bid to match Court's record on hold, at least until the French Open, which begins at the end of May.

Williams, however, remained optimistic about her chances of equaling Court as the most successful player in the history of women's tennis. "It hasn't happened yet, but I feel like it's going to happen," she said.

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 player won 6-2, 6-4.

Osaka took just over an hour to dispatch sixth seed Elina Svitolina, beating the Ukrainian 6-4, 6-1 and leaving Pliskova in no doubt about the challenges she faces on Thursday in the semifinal.

"I'll be ready for tomorrow," the Czech explained. "We've played a few times. She's had some great times since the U.S. Open."