Serena Williams’s pursuit of a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title will have to wait.
Williams was ousted from the Australian Open on Wednesday, falling to seventh-seeded Karolina Pliskova, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, in a quarterfinal match. Pliskova advanced to the semifinals, where she will meet Naomi Osaka, who defeated No. 6 Elina Svitolina earlier in the day.
After splitting two tight sets with Pliskova, Williams was cruising through the third and appeared to be on the verge of advancing after taking a 5-1 lead.
But then Williams appeared to injure her left ankle on match point. Pliskova eventually claimed the game and took advantage of Williams’s limited mobility to reel off the next six games.
“I was almost in the locker room, but now I’m standing here as a winner,” Pliskova said in her on-court interview. “So it’s a really good feeling.”
Williams, 37, has not won a major since the 2017 Australian Open, which she claimed while she was pregnant with her daughter. She has 23 Grand Slam trophies, one short of Margaret Court’s record.
After returning to the tour last March, Williams reached the finals at Wimbledon and the United States Open, but lost both.
Pliskova, the 2016 United States Open runner-up, won the first set 6-4 and was up a break in the second.
But after being broken in the fifth game, Williams won six straight points, and eight of nine, to take a 4-3 lead.
Both players had easy holds before Williams got her second break of the set, with Pliskova serving to stay in it, to send the match to a decisive third set.
Williams tried to battle through despite her injury, and managed to force three more match points, but Pliskova fended off all of them to advance to the semifinals.
The result prevented a rematch of last year’s memorable United States Open women’s singles final, which Osaka won. Osaka’s triumph was overshadowed by Williams’s arguments with the chair umpire that cost her a game penalty.
Osaka will be playing in her first Australian Open semifinal after stretching her Grand Slam winning streak to 12 matches.
The 21-year-old from Japan moved closer to a second consecutive major championship by parlaying her aggressive and powerful style into a 31-11 edge in winners during her 6-4, 6-1 victory over Svitolina.
“I tried to be consistent,” the No. 4-seeded Osaka said, “or as consistent as I can.”
She never had been past the fourth round at the Australian Open.
Svitolina had her neck and shoulders massaged by a trainer during a medical timeout while trailing 3-0 in the second set.
The No. 6 seed from Ukraine, Svitolina said afterward that she had been troubled by pain in that area since the start of the tournament.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t produce 100 percent the game that I wanted,” Svitolina said. “But in the end, she was just playing better today.”
The other semifinal in the women’s bracket will pit the eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova against the unseeded American Danielle Collins.