Serena Williams on Friday was eliminated from the Australian Open in the third round by Wang Qiang of China.
The American’s bid for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam singles title ended with a 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 7-5 defeat to Wang.
Williams’ confidence was high after the American claimed her first title in three years in Auckland ahead of the Australian Open, but her wait to match Margaret Court’s record of 24 slams — and to win her first major since the 2017 — goes on.
Williams was highly critical of her own performance after making 56 unforced errors, saying: “I was optimistic I would be able to win. I thought, ‘OK now finish this off’. I honestly didn’t think I was going to lose that match.
“I just made far too many errors to be a professional athlete today.
“If we were just honest with ourselves, it’s all on my shoulders. I lost that match. It’s not about the tournament, it’s just like I can’t play like that. I literally can’t do that again. That’s unprofessional. It’s not cool.”
Williams’ defeat was all the more unexpected given she’d beaten Wang 6-1 6-0 in the quarterfinals of the US Open last year when the Chinese player won just 15 points.
Williams’ last grand slam title came at the 2017 Australian Open while she was pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia.
The 38-year-old has fallen in four finals since then, but said after her latest setback that she is confident she can return to winning ways at majors.
“I don’t play just to have fun and to lose, it’s not fun to play to lose personally,” she said.
“I seem to do well at the last two slams of the year (Wimbledon and the US Open). I’ve won them all several times so each of them is an opportunity for me to go out there and win.
“It’s not even about the slams, it’s about me playing good tennis and I didn’t do that today. That is more disappointing. It’s not even just about the win, it’s more (that) I’m better than that.”
It would have been fitting, meanwhile, had the 38-year-old finally moved level with Margaret Court in Melbourne as the tournament marks the 50th anniversary of her calendar Grand Slam.