A point was all that Serena Williams needed to beat Karolina Pliskova in the quarter finals of the Australian Open but that wasn’t to be. Serena rolled her ankle at that very moment and everything went downhill from there for the tennis superstar. The 7th seed Pliskova was hanging by a thread and in a startling turn of events, she knocked Serena Williams from the Australian Open.
Everything was going according to the script but it looked like the end had a twist and it sure left everyone shocked, including Pliskova herself. Williams gave away four match points on the way to dropping the last six games with the contest ending with a final score of 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.
Crumbling under the sun.
Williams had quite a bad start and this could be seen right from the first set as she made eleven unforced errors as compared to the five by Pliskova. And if you think that was bad, this statistics ended 37-15. This shaky start was a real scare for Serena and it only kept on mounting in the first set. Pouncing on these errors, Pliskova took the first set 6-4.
In the second set Pliskova led by 3-2 before Williams turned it around and made it 3-3 after she earned her first break point of the match. She finally began to pick up some momentum and conjured up nine games out of the subsequent eleven. Williams then went on to win that set 6-4.
The matchup between Pliskova and Williams was played under some amount of heat with the temperatures reaching up to around 25oC at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. And you could see that the heat was affecting Serena in sorts when she kept standing in patches of some shade near the baseline on both sides of the court. Definitely seemed like the Australian heat got to her.
The real turn around started when Williams was serving for victory at 5-1, the score being 40-30, and she was called for a foot fault. In the succeeding point, Williams twisted her ankle and her forehand went straight into the net. Clearly in a little bit of some pain, she grabbed her foot and tried to brush it off as she is so often found doing.
And even then, the tennis great was found to be a little too calm and her body language, according to quite a few experts seemed to be oddly flat throughout. This was surprisingly contrasting to the fierce persona that she portrays on her end of the court. Pliskova didn’t seem intimidated by the giant in front of her, and that did bring her back on track in this mammoth match.
It did seem like an uphill task to Pliskova but little did she know that everything was about to change. Pliskova braved off three more match points and she was well on her way to a astonishing victory over Serena. The twisted ankle really seemed to be bothering Williams and she did look to be in some discomfort. It was a rare sight to see such a feared competitor in women’s tennis to be in such pain and in spite of the distress, she refused to call out the trainer who would at the least try and cover up her ankle and get her through to the semi finals.
Serena tells us what went wrong.
Serena denied that she didn’t choke this Wednesday in such a crucial contest even after wasting her 5-1 lead. In her post match conference, Williams said that the loss was simply because Pliskova was at the top of her game.
“I can’t say that I choked on those match points,” was her reply when she was asked about her lurid meltdown at the critical stages of the match.
“She literally played her best tennis ever on those shots.”
When she was asked as to why she hadn’t called for a trainer when she rolled her ankle in the rally that cost her first match point, she replied, “I really hate calling the trainer out, to be honest. And that point I didn’t feel like I needed it. I like to just kind of tough it out.”
This was a critical point for the two competitors as it began to change and inevitably shape the outcome of the match. Williams’ movement didn’t seem to be hampered by the incident but it definitely agitated her mentality.
Would Serena Williams be able to compete in the semis?
Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou said that even if Serena did beat Pliskova and makes it to the semi finals, she wouldn’t be able to play in it. According to him, she knew the magnitude and the outcome of this for her wouldn’t be a good one.
“I think she didn’t call the physio because she knew her tournament was over.”
Even though the slight injury might have dented Williams’ bid to a record tying 24th Grand Slam title overall, you can’t take anything away from Pliskova who gave it everything she had and that finally paid off.
Karolina Pliskova had a different script.
In her courtside interview, Pliskova said that she was on the brink of packing her bags and heading home.
“I was almost in the locker room. But now I’m standing here as the winner.”
When she was asked about Williams’ comeback in the second set, Pliskova said, “I was a little bit too passive. Obviously mentally down.” She also said that she was ready for her semi final opponent but she felt that “nobody is more dangerous than Williams.”
Pliskova did hold on to her nerves to see out her opponent and make it through to the semi finals.
Next up: Semi Finals
Pliskova will face 4th seeded Naomi Osaka who made it to the semis by defeating No. 6 Elina Svitloina 6-4, 6-1 earlier Wednesday. The other semi final will feature Petra Kvitova against the unseeded American Danielle Collins.
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