Williams loss blows draw wide open
The Australian Open women's draw was thrown wide open on Monday after Russia's Ekaterina Makarova shocked Serena Williams in the fourth round, as Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova won in straight sets.
Makarova, the world number 56, reached a grand slam quarterfinal for the first time when she stunned a below-par Williams 6-2, 6-3 and will now face former champion Maria Sharapova, who battled back from a set down to progress.
There were no such problems for Kvitova, who held off a late fight-back from Ana Ivanovic to win 6-2, 7-6 (7/2) and move into a quarterfinal showdown against Italian Sara Errani, a 6-2, 6-1 winner over China's Zheng Jie.
Williams, a 13-time grand slam winner, was expected to cruise past Makarova, who surprised seventh seed Vera Zvonareva in the third round.
But almost from the first point it was obvious that Williams, who suffered an ankle injury this month in Brisbane, was not her usual self as mistakes came thick and fast from her racquet, 37 in all.
The 30-year-old sent down seven double-faults as she was broken five times, ending a 17-match unbeaten streak at Melbourne Park stretching back to 2009.
"I served, I don't know. I can't even describe how I served to be honest," she said. "It wasn't good, though.
"My lefty serve is actually better than that. Maybe I should have started serving lefty... I just did not serve well. It was just disastrous really."
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Makarova broke Williams twice in the first set to win the opener but the American seemed to get back on track with an early break in the second -- only to surrender it the next game.
Makarova held serve to level the set at 2-2, then broke again as a frustrated Williams served four double faults, the last to concede the game.
"It's an amazing feeling, it's unbelievable," Makarova said. "She's an unbelievable player and I'm just really happy."
Four different women have won the past four grand slams -- including three first-timers -- and Williams's loss makes this year's Melbourne winner even harder to predict.
Kvitova, Errani and Sharapova are the potential beneficiaries on Williams's side of the draw, while the main threat in the other half is Kim Clijsters, who injured an ankle in Sunday's win over Li Na.
In other action earlier on Monday, Kvitova recovered from an embarrassing air swing to see off Ivanovic.
An under-pressure Ivanovic was serving at 3-5 to stay in the match when she threw up a despairing defensive lob from behind the baseline. Kvitova moved in for the kill but somehow missed the simple smash and the ball hit her.
Ivanovic held serve and then broke Kvitova to force a second-set tiebreak, but the world number two recovered to dominate the breaker and notch up an impressive victory.
She will now take on Errani, who played some rock-solid tennis to get past Zheng. The Chinese number two had a day to forget with 47 unforced errors in just two sets.
The 24-year-old Sharapova, who won the Australian Open in 2008, has now reached the quarterfinals or better in Melbourne five times, but this is the first time she has progressed so far since she took the title four years ago.
"I had lots of ups and downs today so I was fortunate to finish on a high note," she said.
"She was a good opponent and playing with confidence. I’m happy that although I didn’t play my best tennis I hung in there."
Sharapova started with a blaze of attacking shots and broke Lisicki’s first two service games to take a 3-0 lead but the gritty German refused to buckle and slowly fought her way back into the match.
Lisicki won the next six games to wrap up the first set before Sharapova stopped the stop the rot, fighting back to level the match at one set apiece.
The turning point came in the third game of the third set when Lisicki had five break points but could not convert any of them.
Three games later Sharapova broke the German to gain a crucial 4-2 advantage.