Serena Williams out in 4th round at Aussie Open
MELBOURNE — Serena Williams has lost at the Australian Open for the first time since 2008, struggling with her serve and hitting too many unforced errors in a shocking 6-2, 6-3 fourth-round defeat to Ekaterina Makarova.
Williams was surprised by the power of the groundstrokes coming back at her Monday from the Russian lefthander, who at No. 56 was the lowest-ranked woman to make the fourth round of the season’s first major.
The dominant force at Melbourne Park this century, Williams had lost only two matches at the Australian Open since winning the first of her five titles here in 2003.
But she had seven double faults — including four in the fifth game of the second set — and 37 unforced errors to give Makarova a spot in the quarterfinals at a major for the first time. She’ll play either 2008 champion Maria Sharapova or Sabine Lisicki.
“I don’t know what to say. Amazing feeling and first time in quarterfinals,” the 23-year-old Makarova said. Williams is “an unbelievable player. It’s really tough to play against her so I’m really happy I finished it in my way.”
Williams sprained her left ankle in a warmup tournament at Brisbane two weeks ago, but didn’t show any signs of being restricted on Monday.
She was bothered by a bug that landed on her left shoulder when she dropped serve for the first time in the match, and became increasingly exasperated as her misses piled up — including one overhead that she sent way too long and another that she hit meekly back for Makarova to pass her.
Williams won the first two games in the second set but then Makarova went on a roll, winning the next four games — including the double-fault strewn game at 2-2 when Williams screamed after one and asked herself out loud after another: “How many double-faults do you want to make?”
Williams didn’t blame her ankle injury or the heat, which increased to 34C (93F) during the day, but couldn’t even describe how bad her serve was.
“Yeah, I served like …. it’s inappropriate. I don’t know,” she said. “It was just disastrous really. Maybe I should have started serving lefty.”
The Russian got tighter toward the end but kept her nerve to hold in a key game. Then, with Williams serving to stay in the match, she needed four match points before Williams sent a backhand wide.
The absence of Williams opens up the women’s draw, with Sharapova, defending champion Kim Clijsters and Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova the only major winners still in contention.
Clijsters advanced to the quarterfinals with a comeback win over Li Na in rematch of the 2011 decider on Sunday, while Kvitova had some trouble late before beating former No. 1-ranked Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 7-6 (2) in the opening match on Monday.
The 21-year-old Kvitova was seemingly fast-tracking her progress to the last eight until her game momentarily came undone near the end of the second set after she completely missed a routine overhead at the net to allow the former French Open champion to pull to 4-5.
She lost the next eight points to fall behind 6-5 — badly missing on a couple of wild groundstrokes — and only managed to force a tiebreaker with two big serves out wide in the 12th game.
Ivanovic’s two double-faults early in the tiebreaker gave Kvitova some easy points and took the pressure off.
The match seemed close to ending much earlier when Kvitova got into perfect position to put away an innocuous lob from Ivanovic, but played through the shot too quickly and was hit instead on the body.
“It was a very tough match at the end. I mean it was a really easy point then I thought I got it and I lost eight points in a row,” she said. “I’m very happy I played very well in the tiebreak.”
She’ll next play Serra Errani of Italy, who beat 2008 semifinalist Zheng Jie 6-2, 6-1.
On the men’s side, two-time Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray only spent 49 minutes on court and was leading 6-1, 6-1, 1-0 when Mikhail Kukushkin retired from their fourth-round match with a left hip injury, giving him an easy path into the quarterfinals.
“It’s obviously good for me, I get to conserve some energy,” Murray said. “Tough for him, first time in the fourth-round of a Slam.”
He’ll next play Kei Nishikori, who had a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win over sixth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2008 finalist.
The 22-year-old Nishikori became the first Japanese man to advance to the Australian Open quarterfinals in 80 years, and the only the second man from his country to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal in the Open Era started in 1968. Shuzo Matsuoka reached the 1995 Wimbledon quarterfinals.
“Is feeling unbelievable. My first quarterfinal and beating Tsonga, makes me really happy,” Nishikori said. “I hope it’s big in Japan. A lot of people messaged me a couple of days ago about the round of 16 and now the quarterfinals. It’s really exciting.”
Defending champion Novak Djokovic was playing Lleyton Hewitt on Monday night.