Serena Williams’ long winning streak came to an end in an upset 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 loss to Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round of the Australian Open today.
Williams hadn’t lost a match since August, one of only four defeats in 2013, and came into the fourth round with 25 straight wins. It was her 70th match at Melbourne Park, a record in the Open era, and she’d already set the mark for most match wins ever at the Australian Open with her third-round victory.
Ivanovic hadn’t won a set in her four previous matches against Williams, who was a hot favorite to win a sixth Australian Open crown for her 18th Grand Slam title.
Williams has been almost perfect after winning the first set in Australian Open matches, losing only once in 52 previous matches after winning the opening set. But No. 14-seeded Ivanovic got on top early in the second set with some stunning forehand winners and never really let Williams back into the contest.
The 2008 French Open champion won by attacking the best serve in women’s tennis, frequently standing well inside the baseline to receive.
“It’s not easy, you know, playing such a champion ... but she is also just a human and I know she has lots of pressure, too.” Ivanovic said. “I just went out there swinging at the ball.”
Ivanovic had 33 winners, including 20 on her forehand side. Williams hit 22 winners but made 31 unforced errors.
The other quarterfinal will feature two women who’ll turn 32 next month, with two-time finalist Li Na beating No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-0 and No. 28 Flavia Pennetta upsetting No. 9 Angelique Kerber 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.
Na wrapped up her fourth-round win in less than an hour.
The 2011 French Open champion broke Makarova’s serve five times and fended off four break points on her own serve during a 59-minute win to reach the quarterfinals for the fourth time in five years.
Pennetta’s late-career revival continued as she reached her first Australian Open quarterfinal.
The 28th-seeded Pennetta has played some of her best tennis since returning last February from a wrist injury that caused her ranking to drop as low as No. 166.
Li and Pennetta both turn 32 next month, one day apart.
“You know what, at least she is one day older than me. So I will play an older player,” Li, who had back-to-back wins over the two youngest players in the tournament tin the first two rounds, joked in an on-court interview. “Not like couple rounds [before], always younger than me. Nobody talked about the age.”
Pennetta reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open last year and has followed that by reaching her first quarterfinal at Melbourne Park in 11 appearances.
“I’m a little old so I’m starting to enjoy [tennis] more,” she said. “When you are young you want to win so much.”
Pennetta broke Kerber to take a 5-3 lead in the third set but tightened up as she was serving for the match, giving the break right back. She recovered, however, to take a 6-5 lead and then broke Kerber to close out the match.
On the men’s side, three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic was set to take on Italian Fabio Fognini for a place in the quarterfinals. Djokovic is attempting to make his 19th consecutive appearance in the quarterfinals of a Slam.