Five-time champion Serena Williams lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open to end her 17- match winning streak in Melbourne, where the men’s No. 6 seed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, also was upset.
Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic reached the quarterfinals of the tennis season’s first Grand Slam tournament for the fifth straight year. Both No. 4 seeds, Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova, also advanced.
Williams, the No. 12 seed and the last U.S. player left in either main singles draw, was beaten 6-2, 6-3 at Rod Laver Arena yesterday by Ekaterina Makarova, a 23-year-old Russian left- hander who was the lowest-ranked female player in the fourth round this year at No. 56 on the WTA tour list.
“I’m surprised because she’s a great player and it’s really tough to play against her,” Makarova told reporters after reaching her first quarterfinal at a major. “I played my game, and that’s it. I won against Serena. That’s amazing.”
Defending women’s champion Kim Clijsters of Belgium plays top seed Caroline Wozniacki and third-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus faces Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals today. Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina takes on former champion Roger Federer of Switzerland and Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic plays 2009 champion Rafael Nadal of Spain for berths in the men’s semifinals.
Williams, the winner of 13 Grand Slam singles titles, last failed to reach the final eight at Melbourne Park in 2006, when she lost in the third round. She won the tournament in 2009 and 2010 before missing last year’s event because of an injury.
The 30-year-old American right-hander lost her serve five times against Makarova and had seven double faults, including four in the fifth game of the second set. She also made 37 unforced errors in the 82-minute match and said she would have been better off serving left-handed.
“I can’t describe how I served, to be honest,” Williams said. “It wasn’t good, though. It was just disastrous really. I served horrendous.”
Makarova will next play Sharapova, another Russian who fought off 14th-seeded Sabine Lisicki of Germany 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Sharapova, in the last eight in Melbourne for the first time since she won the championship in 2008, had entered the tournament having not played an official tour match since October because of an ankle injury. She dropped the first set after leading 3-0.
“The first three games were good, then it went south for a bit, and then I got it together in the second,” said Sharapova, who made 23 winners and more than twice as many errors. “The third was a battle.”
Djokovic of Serbia beat Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt, formerly No. 1 in the world and playing in this year’s tournament on a wild-card entry, 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in a match that ended at 1:04 a.m. local time today at Rod Laver Arena to complete the quarterfinal lineup. Djokovic dropped his first set of the tournament after leading 3-0. He next plays fifth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer, who beat Richard Gasquet of France, the No. 17 seed, 6-4, 6-4, 6-1.
“Have to give credit to my opponent,” Djokovic said in a televised court-side interview. “He’s a great competitor, he made me play an extra shot, and I made a few unforced errors.”
Djokovic had 37 unforced errors against 23 winners. Hewitt had 55 winners and 34 unforced errors.
Hewitt, 30, was the last Australian left in the singles draw. The nation that produced all-time Grand Slam singles titles record-holder Margaret Court last won the Australian Open title in 1976, when Mark Edmondson took the trophy. U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur was upset in the first round of the women’s draw.
Wimbledon champion and No. 2 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and Murray of Britain advanced yesterday, while No. 24 Kei Nishikori of Japan ousted Tsonga, the 2008 runner-up, in five sets.
Murray was leading Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-1, 1-0 when the Kazakhstan player quit the match with a hip injury.
“It’s good that I got to conserve some energy,” Murray, who’s seeking to become the first British man to win a Grand Slam title since 1936, said after spending 49 minutes on court as the temperature rose to 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit). “You can’t look at it as a negative. At this stage of the tournament to be off the court in 45 minutes or so isn’t bad.”
Swing and Miss
Kvitova beat former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 7-6 (7-2), recovering from a whiffed shot while leading 5-3 in the second set. Ivanovic threw up a defensive lob from behind the baseline. Kvitova missed the smash from close to the net and the ball hit her in the chest.
“I know that it looks really strange when I miss it,” Kvitova said. “I won, that is the important thing.”
She’ll next face unseeded Italian Sara Errani, who ousted Zheng Jie of China 6-2, 6-1 to extend her best performance at a major.
Nishikori became the first Japanese man to reach the last eight at the Australian Open in 80 years by beating Tsonga 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in 3 1/2 hours.
The last time a Japanese man reached the quarterfinals of any Grand Slam tournament was in 1995, when Shuzo Matsuoka got to the last eight at Wimbledon.
“Hopefully it’s big in Japan,” Nishikori, 22, said in a televised court-side interview. “A lot of people messaged me a couple of days ago when I got to the round of 16. Now it’s the quarterfinal so I’m really excited.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Baynes at Melbourne Park at firstname.lastname@example.org