Pliskova ousts Serena, Djokovic on course

Serena Williams' bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title was brought to a halt in sensational style at the Australian Open yesterday by Karolina Pliskova, as Lucas Pouille reached his first ever major semi-final. The 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams was ever graceful in this sudden and shocking defeat as from serving on match point she went on to be on the losing side of the match.

The other three chances came with Pliskova serving at 4-5 but the Czech was rewarded for bravery on her forehand, and Williams insisted it had been her opponent who had won the match rather than she who had lost it. Williams hurt her ankle while trying to reach change direction during one point.

"It was tough. If there was a day in between these two matches, it would have been be helpful for me", she said. The 37-year-old American simply does not play enough tournaments and matches and while a sparing schedule may have worked for her when she was at her physical peak, that may no longer be the case. The first Grand Slam of 2019 sees world number one Novak Djokovic aiming for his third consecutive slam title, and seventh Australian Open. "So I took my chances". I stayed aggressive. She just literally hit the lines on some of them.

Osaka burnished her reputation as one of the cleanest hitters of the ball in women's tennis by smacking winners nearly at will from both her forehand and backhand under the roof of the Rod Laver Arena which was closed due to extreme heat. Anything can happen. Even if I would lose here earlier, yesterday or whatever, it's still a good start for me.

And, lo and behold, in 2013, she ended her 11-year wait for a second triumph in Paris, just as she'd hoped.

She clawed back the second set and had Osaka anxious after bringing up break point late in the third, but the US Open champion held on for a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory.

She promptly double-faulted after missing a passing shot on her first match point and was broken after dumping a backhand into the net. The former world No. 1, seeded 16th in Australia after an up-and-down 2018 season in which she made her way back from an extremely hard childbirth, failed to convert four match points while falling to the seventh-seeded Pliskova.

"I don't think it had anything to do with my ankle, per se", she added.

But Osaka first faces an in-form Elina Svitolina, who made it to this stage thanks to a pair of three-set wins in the past two rounds, including the last against Madison Keys. This is the first time, in five attempts, the 25-year-old American has gotten past the first round in the main draw of a Slam - it's also her first appearance in the main draw of the Australian Open. Pliskova, by comparison, had already played and won the Brisbane International this season before getting four more matches under her belt prior to Wednesday's shock.

Osaka will carry a 12-match Grand Slam winning streak into the semifinals.

2017 US Open victor Sloane Stephens was a favorite to at least advance to the 2019 Australian Open semifinals, but she was stunned by Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets.

Williams said there was nothing she could do against an opponent in such form. I think she's been No. 2 in the world before. "Like, I am happy that I'm here, but at the same time, I want to keep going", said Osaka, who never had been past the fourth round at the Australian Open. "No, but like, they have the roof open and I was like, "oh, it's my time to shine", Osaka said in an on-court interview.

'For me, right now, I just try to keep looking forward. "There is more matches to win".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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