Serena Williams’ bid of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open ended in a shock defeat from China’s Wang Qiang and the American branded herself “unprofessional” after her defeat.
When they met at the US Open last summer, China’s Wang Qiang won just one game and 15 points, but it was a completely different story this time as the 27th seed claimed a 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 7-5 victory.
But Williams made 56 unforced errors compared to 20 for her opponent as she made her earliest exit from the Australian Open in 14 years.
“I just made far too many errors to be a professional athlete today,” the 38-year-old said. “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.”
The American admitted she thought she had done the hard work by winning the second set, 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.”
Asked if defeats still sting as badly as they used to now she has so many other things in her life, Williams said: “I am just a better actress. I’m no happier than I was 10 years ago. But I just have to pretend I don’t want to punch the wall, but in reality I do.”
Since winning Wimbledon in 2016 Serena Williams has exited nine Grand Slam tournaments she has played in.
The 38-year-old has also lost in four Grand Slam finals since winning Wimbledon.
It was her earliest defeat at a hard-court grand slam since here in 2006, and will add fuel to those who believe a 24th title will remain elusive.
Williams is not one of those, and she will hold high hopes for Wimbledon and the US Open having reached the final at both events in 2018 and 2019.
“I definitely do believe or I wouldn’t be on tour,” she added. “I don’t play just to have fun. To lose is really not fun. I seem to do well the last two Slams of the year. I have won them all several times. Each one is definitely an opportunity for me to go out there and win.”
While the focus was on Williams, this was a special day for Wang, particularly given what happened in New York last summer.
“I’m really happy now,” she said. “I always believed I can do this one day. I didn’t know which day, but it’s coming today. I did really hard work in the off-season, so it paid off.”
Wang was coached for four years by Australian former doubles great Peter McNamara, who died from cancer last summer.