Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Tennis

Australian Open: Serena Williams loses to Karolina Pliskova in thriller

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Serena Williams, her movement cramped late during the match by using a rolled ankle, blew a third-set 5-1 lead, four match points, a rematch with Naomi Osaka plus a an opportunity to equal the 24 slam titles of Margaret Court from a dramatic quarter-final on Wednesday.

Karolina Pliskova remained calm as Williams disintegrated physically after her left ankle collapsed under her after a foot-fault substantially sight of victory, and started to win 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. On Thursday, she plays Osaka – Williams’s conqueror in the US Open final – right after the exciting young Japanese player had included the Ukrainian sixth seed Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-1 in barely one hour and 12 minutes while in the opening match on Rod Laver Arena.

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“I think she improved her game within the second set, went for her shots,” Pliskova said courtside. “I received a little tight, played too passive. But I’m standing here as the winner, so I’m happy. My head is at the locker room at 5-1 down in the third. Some have many chances. She got a little bit shakey eventually and I took my chances. We are ready for tomorrow. We’ve played many times. She’s had and this times since US Open.”

Williams’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou said beforehand he thought she was playing her best tennis since coming back from childbirth – but that wasn’t the impression during the first hour on another hot day.

Pliskova, who’d made just three unforced errors when beating Garbine Muguruza while in the fourth round, was similarly economical within their risk-taking here and won the main set behind a clinical serve, at 81% efficiency, making just five unforced mistakes.

The Czech grabbed two break points inside fifth bet on another set, and Williams netted a backhand from the baseline to deliver a quiver of doubt through her team. An arrangement as well as a disintegrate, she was suffering beneath the quality pressure associated with an opponent whose one stand out her in three encounters is at a slam, when Pliskova won their quarter-final along at the 2019 US Open in straight sets. Only four other players had beaten Williams twice or even more in slams: her sister, Venus, Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza and Sam Stosur.

Williams wasn’t quite finished, and broke back in love. Pliskova, so cool thus far, must hold to forestall Williams taking it to a third set but, from a drawn-out exchange, three aces just weren’t enough to obtain her there, Williams pushing her through deuce 4 times before forcing your final limp backhand from her.

“I feel she’s into being Serena for the physical and emotional side,” Mouratoglou had said earlier. When she broke at the start of the 3rd, all seemed well again. As soon as she had wrecked the Pliskova serve to go 5-1 up, the contest had nearly dissolved. That’s when everything changed dramatically.

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Williams foot-faulted on match point, rolling her left ankle in the way. She double-faulted handy Pliskova the chance to break back and dumped a forehand. Pliskova rediscovered her serving mojo in which to stay the tournament, and broke to love for 4-5.

Frustrated and angry, Williams hit hard through the back within the court but Pliskova saved two match points and held for 5-all that has a withering forehand past her static target. When Pliskova broke to adore, the end result was for my child racket. Williams saved two of three match points, but netted her final forehand and an extraordinary piece of tennis theatre was done.

There was no such drama for Osaka – aside from interrupting the on-court TV interviewer, informing him, “I know it can be tough regardless of who I play… and honestly, I’m just endeavoring to walk inside, as it is a little bit hot at this time.”

It was for a par with her knock-down honesty at the start of the tournament, when she disarmed the wedding guests by revealing, “Honestly, I do not totally appreciate where I am about while i talk. There’s not really a set plan. Truly goes like this, everywhere.”

She’s going nowhere at this time, and will be centre stage again on Thursday – simply not from the opponent she had anticipated.

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