Serena Williams said she felt like punching a wall after her shock third-round loss to No.27 seed Wang Qiang at the Australian Open.
The tennis world was stunned at the 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 7-5 upset of the 23-time grand slam champion, which leaves Williams still one title behind Margaret Court on the all-time list of women’s major winners.
ESPN called Williams’ defeat “uncharacteristically sloppy”.
“It marked Williams’ first loss in the first week of a hard-court major since 2006,” D’Arcy Maine wrote.
“There was a collective shock by the final outcome, especially as many had seemingly overlooked the matchup beforehand and instead focused on the potential fourth-round showdown with her longtime friend Caroline Wozniacki.”
Associated Press’ Howard Fendrich hinted at a “generational shift” away from Williams and toward the new generation, like Coco Gauff.
“Perhaps Serena Williams, now 38, will win a 24th Grand Slam title someday,” Fendrich wrote.
“And maybe Coco Gauff, still just 15, never will earn her first major championship. Sure felt, though, as if a generational shift was being signaled Friday at the Australian Open.”
The New York Times also called Williams’ loss an “uncharacteristic faltering” as “all the anticipation only led to more disappointment”.
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“And so now the inevitable questions come about her next chapter, at a time when a number of tennis’ titans are aging and quitting,” Christopher Clarey said.
“It is unclear whether the unimaginable day of a Serena-less world of sports is closer or is this yet another setback on the path a momentous comeback befitting her aura, something on the order of Tiger Woods’s victory at he Masters last year.”
Then Court herself added salt to Williams’ wound when she ranked her top 10 women’s players of all time, and remarkably put Steffi Graf ahead of Williams in the number one spot.
Court ranked Billie-Jean King at No. 3, Martina Navratilova at No. 4, and Chris Evert at No.5, followed by Maria Bueno, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Venus Williams, Monica Seles and Justine Henin.
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“They’re all great champions,” Court told News Corp of her list. ‘But I always thought Steffi was the best. She was my favourite.
“She won the grand slam in 1988 (Australian, French, Wimbledon and US Open) and I always loved watching her because of her athleticism and style. She was one of the best athletes I had seen.
“And then Serena, of course. Her record speaks for itself and her serve is incredible. She has got a wonderful serve and it’s different to Billie Jean’s.
“Billie Jean placed very well. She didn’t have a lot of power, but she was a great volleyer.
“Like Serena, Billie Jean had a lot of young players beaten before they went on court.
“Serena does that to her opponents, too. Serena has more power, but Billie had incredible control and the ability to move players around.
“She was a great competitor.”
Wang in shock after Serena upset
Had Williams won she would have likely met Ash Barty in the semis as she bids to become the first Australian woman in 42 years to win her home grand slam. Instead, she fell to Wang.
It was a remarkable turnaround in fortunes in the space of less than five months for Wang, after winning only one game in her previous encounter with Williams in the quarter-finals at last year’s US Open.
Wang said she had no plans to celebrate Chinese New Year on Saturday, preferring instead to rest up and prepare for her fourth-round encounter with Ons Jabeur.
– with AAP
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