Serena Williams unexpectedly tumbled out of the 2020 Australian Open at the third-round stage with a 6-4 6-7(2) 7-5 defeat to Wang Qiang.
It is a massively upsetting results for the American. And it means that her quest for a Margaret Court-equalling 24th Grand Slam title will have to continue if she wants it to be successful.
For Wang, this day means something entirely. It is undoubtedly the biggest win of her career so far and should give her great confidence for her first-ever Grand Slam last-16 match in two days’ time.
It also marked an extraordinary transformation from the Chinese player. At the US Open in September, she was humiliated by the great American. She lost 6-1 6-0 in 44 minutes and did not hit a single winner.
Today in Melbourne, she took the game to Serena and hit 25 of them. In addition, she made sure she held onto her serve as much as possible (she was only broken once) and she made the American play as many balls as she could.
Wang punishes Serena’s mistakes
The 23-time Grand Slam champion did not perform at her best. She made more unforced errors (56) than winners (43), which is usually a bad sign. And she only got 56% of her first serves, which enabled Wang to attack her second serve.
To the 27th seed’s immense credit, she capitalised on Serena’s mistakes. She remained so consistent and made so few unforced errors in the match (just 20 in 160 minutes of play) that she reduced the margin for error for her opponent significantly.
This meant that when the American faltered, Wang could pounce. She was gifted 0-30 in the ninth game of the first set and hit two winners to seize the crucial break.
Then Serena made some sloppy errors in the fifth game of the second set and the Chinese player broke her again. Unfortunately for the 27th seed, the World No.9 played arguably her best tennis of the match to break back four games later and then eventually take the set 7-2 in the tie-break.
In the decider, Wang served brilliantly. She got 74% of her first serves in and won 84% of those points. Consequently, she did not face a single break point in the set.
By contrast, Serena had to save two break points to keep the match going all the way to 6-5 in the Chinese player’s favour.
However, that was the limit of the American’s resistance. She made five unforced errors to gift Wang the game and with it the win that she had worked so hard for.
The Chinese player will now take on another surprise winner – Ons Jabeur – in the fourth round. The Tunisian became the last player to beat Caroline Wozniacki in her career when she recorded a 7-5 3-6 7-5 win.
Barty eases into Last 16
While the former World No.1 was knocked out, the current occupier of that ranking – Ashleigh Barty – suffered no such strife. She continued her serene progress through the draw with a comfortable 6-3 6-2 victory over rising star Elena Rybakina.
The Australian, 23, has now lost just twelve games in her last six sets after she dropped the first set against Lesia Tsurenko in round one.
It is ominous form, but if Barty’s rivals are starting to worry, they may take some comfort from the fact that the World No.1 might have to play the woman who beat her at Wimbledon – Alison Riske – in the next round.
Furthermore, if the Australian makes it to the quarter-final, she will probably face a very tough task in the shape of Petra Kvitova.
The Czech, 29, has made this Grand Slam business look very easy so far at this year’s Australian Open. She followed up straight-set victories over Katerina Siniakova and Paula Badosa with a 6-1 6-2 thrashing of Ekaterina Alexandrova to book her place in the fourth round.