Jan/20

24

Serena and Osaka Knocked Out of AO 2020

By Louise Belcourt

The tennis world was in shock after two Australian Open grand slam women’s champions were knocked out of the third round of the Australian Open on day 5.

In the day session of Rod Laver Arena, the gritty Chinese player Qiang Wang celebrated Chinese New Year early with a tough 6-4 6-7(2) 7-5 win over 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams. Whilst 15 year old sensation Coco Gauff followed this up in the night session by demolishing 2 time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-4.

The 2 hour 41 minute win by Wang was in stark contrast to her only other match against Williams, crumbling to a 6-1 6-0 in only 44 minutes at the US Open quarter final last year.

Wang admitted after the match the difference between todays performance and the US Open last year “I (put in) hard work in the gym. I think I have more power than last year.”

In today’s match Wang was not overpowered or overwhelmed by the opponent or occasion. The Chinese moved the 38 year old around the court, hitting to Williams backhand forcing numerous errors from that wing, and handled the barrage of heavy hitting to break serve to love at 4-4 in the first set, going on to win that set.

In the second set the world number 29 would break serve to go up 4-2. But the 7 time Australian Open champion showed her familiar fighting spirit when Qiang served for the match at 5-4, only to break her and go on to dominate the tiebreaker.

In the deciding set all money and the crowd was behind Williams, but at 6-5 and with Williams serving to stay in the match Qiang kept up her aggressive attacking play to break and win the match.

The disappointment at having 56 unforced errors was evident, when Williams said “I just made far too many errors to be a professional athlete today…I’m way too old to play like this at this stage of my career. It’s such a big tournament. It’s no excuse, to be honest.”

Wang paid tribute to the belief of her coach and off-season training to the win. She said, “In off-season we do, like, three hours tennis in a row. I think it’s really help me to be stronger on the court, mentally tough on the court. I think just my coach, Thomas, he always said, I believe 200% in you, so you must believe in yourself.”

Like Wang, Gauff also lost her opponent in the US Open winning only 3 games in that match. But today’s win she attributed to what she learnt from that occasion, saying “Definitely the pace of her ball. She definitely plays faster than most players. I think at US Open I wasn’t really prepared for that. And today I definitely showed that I worked on that in the offseason.”

So with this kind of performance from Williams, at aged 38 years old will we ever see her equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles? Time and consistency are both not on her side.

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