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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 February 2019

Serena Williams full of praise for Karolina Pliskova after 'lights out' fightback at Australian Open

Czech player rallies to win 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 at Rod Laver Arena and set up semi-final meet with Osaka

Karolina Pliskova, left, dumped Serena Williams out of the Australian Open on Wednesday. EPA 
Karolina Pliskova, left, dumped Serena Williams out of the Australian Open on Wednesday. EPA 

Serena Williams insisted all credit should go to Karolina Pliskova after the Czech seventh seed produced a remarkable fightback to beat the American in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Williams, 37, blew a 5-1 lead in the deciding set to lose 4-6, 6-4, 5-7 on Rod Laver Arena as Pliskova booked a semi-final date with US Open champion Naomi Osaka, who incidentally defeated Williams in her most recent grand slam loss in the final at Flushing Meadows.

Williams failed to take any of four match points presented to her, including one on serve when leading 5-2, and another three when Pliskova was serving to level at 4-5.

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The turning point appeared to occur when Williams - a seven-time champion in Melbourne - rolled her ankle while in control of the third set, but the 23-time major winner refused to blame her collapse on any potential injury.

"My ankle is fine, maybe I'll feel it tomorrow," she said. "I think she played incredible on match points, just hitting lines. I didn't call the trainer out because I didn't feel I needed it."

Instead, Williams spent her post-match press conference praising the quality of Pliskova's performance.

"I think she just played well on my serve after that point," the American said. "I think she just kind of started playing really, really good.

"I think she just played lights out on match point, literally, hitting lines. [She] just went crazy on match point. Obviously, I made some mistakes, but she played really well after that.

"There's nothing I did wrong on those match points. I didn't do anything wrong. I stayed aggressive. She just literally hit the lines on some of them. One she hit an ace, unreturnable serve. I literally did everything I could on those match points.

"I can't say that I choked on those match points. She literally played her best tennis ever on those shots."

Prior to the loss to Pliskova, Williams had won her previous 14 grand slam quarter-finals, stretching back to her defeat to compatriot Sloane Stephens at the 2013 Australian Open.

Having missed much of the 2017 season to give birth and opting to play a selective schedule last year, Williams surpassed many expectations by reaching the Wimbledon and US Open finals, before displaying her brilliance in Melbourne - most notably in her win over top seed Simona Halep in the fourth round.

However, Williams revealed that the standards she has set for herself means that any defeat is disappointing, regardless of context.

"The big picture for me is always winning," she said. "I'm not going to sit here and lie about that. It hasn't happened yet, but I feel like it's going to happen.

"[I'm] just [going to] keep taking it one match at a time, just keep soldiering on, I guess. It's definitely not easy for me.

"From Day 1, I expect to go out and, quite frankly, to win. That hasn't happened, but I do like my attitude. I like that I don't want to go out here and say, 'I expect to lose because I had a year off, I've been playing for 10 months. I'm not supposed to win.' I don't have that attitude.

"I have the attitude of, I've only been playing 10 months, but I expect to win, and if I don't, it's disappointing. I rather think of it that way and know that it's going to happen sooner or later than making an excuse for myself."

Updated: January 23, 2019 10:17 AM

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