Seven-time champion Serena Williams has been knocked out of the Australian Open, losing 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 7-5 to China’s Wang Qiang in the third round. The defeat means the 38-year-old American’s quest for a 24th Grand Slam singles title goes on. Wang served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but Williams broke her for the first time and then won a tie-break to level at one set all. The 27th seed recovered and sealed victory on her third match point.
“After the second set I was a little bit confused, but my mind always said I had to focus on the court, on every point and trust myself,” said Wang, who now faces Tunisian Ons Jabeur in the fourth round. It is Williams’ earliest exit at the Australian Open since 2006, when she lost at this stage to Daniela Hantuchova. Opportunities to equal Margaret Court’s record of Grand Slam singles titles are running out for Williams, who is in her 23rd year as a professional. She has not won a Slam since the 2017 Australian Open, when she was eight weeks pregnant, but did secure the Auckland International earlier this month, which was her first tour title since Melbourne three years ago. Williams had beaten 28-year-old Wang 6-1 6-0 in just 44 minutes at the US Open in September but the first few games of this second meeting suggested it would be much more competitive on Rod Laver Arena. The Chinese player grew in confidence after she saved three break points in the sixth game of the opening set. Her firm forehands began to trouble Williams, whose movement could not match her opponent’s.