Serena Williams has sensationally departed the Australian Open, falling to Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic in a three set thriller after succumbing to what appeared to be an ankle injury late in the match.
Williams was rocked early in the piece when she offered a juicy break to Pliskova in her 50th quarter-final appearance.
The Czech star took a 3-1 advantage in the first set and life looked like it was about to get a whole lot worse for Williams as she faced three break points. However, the American fought her way back to deuce and finally won the game to keep herself in the contest at 2-3.
Pliskova may have missed the opportunity to go up a double break but she still had enough composure to take her chances on serve as she wrapped up the first set 6-4.
Williams hit big trouble in the second as Pliskova broke her serve at 3-2 to sit a handful of points away from the semi — but the 23-time champ wasn’t giving it up that easy.
Williams bounced back from a litany of unforced errors and immediately broke her way back into the match.
She barely broke a stride as she rocketed through to take the second 6-4.
Then Pliskova’s problems multiplied. After taking the first set, the Czech star began slipping away under the weight of Williams, who was in the box seat at 5-1 to serve for the match.
But then disaster struck. An awkward change of movement from Williams looked to have damaged her ankle and restricted her movement for the remainder of the set.
Pliskova pounced on the opportunity and fought back from four match points to even up the third to 5-5.
Pliskova broke back once more and proceeded to serve out the astonishing match 7-5. Incredibly, Williams failed to win a single point on her serve after hurting her ankle.
Pliskova looked frazzled after the extraordinary comeback from 5-1 down in the deciding set, admiting her “mind was already in the locker room”.
“It was tough because she was really playing well. I didn’t have many chances in the third set and I was too passive, mentally down,” she said. “I said let’s try this game 5-2, maybe I will have a couple of chances. She did get a little bit shaky in the end. So I took my chances and I won.”