Serena Williams’s bid to equal Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam titles was brought to a shuddering halt in sensational style Wednesday by Karolina Pliskova, who will face Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semi-finals.
The American great had beaten world number one Simona Halep in the fourth round but folded against the big-serving Czech seventh seed, who saved four match points before winning 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 under the hot Melbourne sun.
It was a gut-wrenching defeat for the 37-year-old, who battled back from a set down and was leading 5-1 in the third and serving for the match. But she made a foot fault on match point and then hurt her ankle, which hampered her serve.
Since returning last year from giving birth, Williams has made four unsuccessful attempts to match Court’s record, and the wait continues with the French Open in May her next chance.
“She was playing very well. Especially at the end of the second set she went for her shots and she was aggressive,” said Pliskova after depriving Williams of a US Open final rematch with Osaka.
“I played too passive. I was almost in the locker-room but now I am standing here as a winner. It is a very good feeling.”
For Pliskova, it is only her third semi-final at a major.
She made the last four at Roland Garros in 2017 and the US Open a year earlier, where she beat Williams before losing the final to Angelique Kerber.