Australian Open 2020: Serena's earliest exits in Melbourne after Wang upset

By Sports Desk January 24, 2020

Serena Williams bowed out before the fourth round of the Australian Open for just the fourth time in her illustrious career.

The 23-time grand slam champion went down to Wang Qiang in a huge upset on Rod Laver Arena on Friday.

A seven-time champion in Melbourne, Williams made her earliest exit at the tournament since 2006.

We take a look at her earliest departures from the year's opening grand slam after her stunning loss to Wang.

1998, Second round: lost to Venus Williams 7-6 (7-4) 6-1

This was the first professional meeting between the Williams sisters. Venus, bound for the quarter-finals, overcame her younger sister in a head-to-head matchup she would eventually lose more often than not.

1999, Third round: lost to Sandrine Testud [14] 6-2 2-6 9-7

Only a controversial call on match point denied a 17-year-old Williams victory against Testud. Williams thought she had clinched victory in the 14th game of the third set before an overrule, and she would go on to fall to the French 14th seed.

2006, Third round: lost to Daniela Hantuchova [17] 6-1 7-6 (7-5)

On a 16-match winning streak at the Australian Open, having won the title in 2003 and 2005 and skipped 2004 due to a knee injury, Williams' run came to a surprise end against Hantuchova, left again to rue errors in a shock defeat.

2020, Third round: lost to Wang Qiang [27] 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 7-5

Chasing a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles title, Williams stunningly fell to Wang, a player she had crushed 6-1 6-0 at the US Open just months earlier. However, 56 unforced errors proved to be her undoing as Wang produced a consistent display to cause an upset after two hours, 41 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

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  • Next Generation – 'One-in-a-million' Pedri is Iniesta's heir at Barca after snow interrupted Real Madrid trial Next Generation – 'One-in-a-million' Pedri is Iniesta's heir at Barca after snow interrupted Real Madrid trial

    'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.
     

    The snowfall that hit Madrid in February 2018 initially appeared worse than it was, with the seas of white that engulfed fields, pitches and gardens in Spain's capital clearing quicker than one might've expected.

    It was enough to cause Real Madrid to cancel their training for the day on February 5, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo an unexpected day off on his birthday – though daily sports publication AS were particularly critical of the club for essentially shutting down with a crucial Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain little more than a week away.

    As it happened, Madrid went on to claim a third successive European crown, so the issue of a day off almost certainly won't have been raised again. However, it was this snowfall that proved a major disruption to the trial of a kid from the Canary Islands who was "about to sign", according to his father.

    Pedri, 15 at the time, did not join Real Madrid. While he may have been shown the cold shoulder amid the snowfall, the midfielder subsequently signed with local side Las Palmas… And then Barcelona came calling.

    Made for Barca

    A diminutive, but effortlessly silky midfielder, it's little wonder Pedri will end up at Barca. "I have that Barca DNA," he said to EFE in his first major interview after his move was confirmed. "My desire is to resemble [Andres] Iniesta. I have always said he is my idol and he'll remain that until I die."

    Pedri's rise has been impressive. In a little over a year, he progressed through the Juvenil A, B and Division de Honor teams in Las Palmas' academy before being introduced into the first-team picture just last year for pre-season.

    He's now an undisputed starter at 17 – he initially didn't expect to even reach the Division de Honor team in 2019-20.

    Las Palmas had been cautious about showing him off too early, aware that such a talent would immediately attract offers. Instead, they reportedly waited until they had him secured to a professional contract with a €30million release clause and then promised they'd sell him to an interested party straight away.

    Barca made their move in September. An initial €5m could become €25m should Pedri meet certain criteria at Camp Nou – and at this point, few would bet against him making a lasting impression in Catalonia.

    Once again Real Madrid were left frustrated, with a second attempt to sign Pedri coming too late – not that they would have necessarily been successful otherwise, as the teenager's father is the president of a local Barcelona supporters' club, which his grandfather founded.

    "Barca DNA" indeed.

    "One in a million"

    Pepe Mel was the coach who put his faith in Pedri last year, the experienced tactician clearly stunned by the youngster's abilities.

    "Look at this boy, because he's one in a million and he doesn't know it," Mel said at the time. "He will define a new era in Spanish football."

    A bold prediction of one so young, but Pedri has taken to first-team football with immense comfort, his performances in La Segunda this season suggesting he's ready for LaLiga straight away and that Mel's foretelling might be on the money.

    It had been expected that Pedri would spend another season on loan in the second tier with Las Palmas, or move to Barca's B team if they get promoted to the Segunda.

    But now he is attracting loan interest from LaLiga clubs and appears set for a chance to impress first-team coaching staff in pre-season, whenever the coronavirus pandemic permits that period to be.

    Shouldering the burden

    While he possesses the skillset to play virtually anywhere across the midfield, by his own admission Pedri is most effective in the centre where he can take the game to the opposition, exploit gaps in defences and dazzle with his close dribbling.

    Despite his age, Pedri has been a key player for Las Palmas this season, scoring three goals and setting up another four. Six of those goal involvements came in the first 10 matches of the campaign, highlighting there has been a bit of a dip in terms of overall productivity – though he's still proven effective.

    Despite missing a chunk of the season to take part in the Under-17 World Cup in October and November, Pedri has played more league matches ( 26 ) than anyone else for Las Palmas this term and his 52 chances created is unmatched among team-mates. Only eight players in the entire league have produced more key passes.

    Nineteen Segunda players have attempted more dribbles than Pedri's 83, but only two of them can improve on his 57 per cent completion rate.

    And of 1,014 attempted passes, 80 per cent have found a team-mate. While by no means a startling statistic, context is key – many of those with better records on the face of it are central defenders or players operating in less-congested areas of the pitch than Pedri.

    What's clear is, Pedri's already operating at a very high level for a 17-year-old. With many of Barca's midfield options aging, seemingly on their way out or unconvincing, an opportunity could present itself for him sooner rather than later. 

    Snow may have prevented a move to Madrid two years ago, but Pedri can surely look forward to many frosty receptions in Clasico contests during the 2020s.

  • Gueugnon make history against PSG & Giuly's Stade de France masterclass - The five best Coupe de la Ligue finals Gueugnon make history against PSG & Giuly's Stade de France masterclass - The five best Coupe de la Ligue finals

    The last Coupe de la Ligue final should have been taking place on Saturday.

    Paris Saint-Germain were scheduled to face Lyon at the Stade de France, but the coronavirus pandemic bringing almost all sport to a halt has thrown the postponed match into doubt.

    It remains to be seen whether the final game in the competition's history will actually be contested, French football's governing body having voted to expunge the tournament at the end of this season.

    The Coupe de la Ligue may not have the same prestige as the Coupe de France, but over the years it has delivered some memorable finals.

    Here we pick out the five best showpieces.

    1998 – Paris Saint-Germain 2-2 Bordeaux (4-2 on penalties)

    PSG claimed the second of their eight Couple de la Ligue titles in a bona-fide thriller at the Stade de France. 

    They were behind 30 minutes in when Sylvain Wiltord played in Johan Micoud to lash in the opener. However, PSG dominated thereafter and 10 minutes from time they levelled as Marco Simone fired home on the rebound after Ulrich Rame had kept out Rai's penalty.

    Simone then struck the crossbar with a thunderous long-range volley, but Rai put PSG ahead in extra time with a bullet header.

    The legendary Jean-Pierre Papin restored parity in the 114th minute but he was among those to miss in the shoot-out, blazing over the bar before Patrice Loko slotted in the decisive penalty.

    It marked the second successive year Bordeaux had lost on spot-kicks in the final. Less than a month later, PSG made it a double with Coupe de France victory over Lens.

    2000 – Gueugnon 2-0 Paris Saint-Germain

    PSG suffered humiliation two years later as Gueugnon became the first and only team from outside the top division to win the trophy.

    Marcelo Trapasso gave the second-tier side the lead as he reacted quickest to Nicolas Esceth-N'Zi's drive rattling the post.

    Gueugnon withstood a barrage of PSG pressure but ensured a historic victory through Sylvain Flauto's individual effort.

    2001 – Lyon 2-1 Monaco (aet)

    A meeting between the previous season's top-flight champions and the club that would go on to dominate the decade lived up to expectations and ended in dramatic fashion.

    Claudio Cacapa was the unlikely man to break the deadlock, the Brazilian defender chipping over Stephane Porato in the 35th minute. 

    Shabani Nonda forced extra time as his volley squirmed past Gregory Coupet, but two minutes from the end of the second additional period substitute Patrick Muller met Sonny Anderson's left-wing cross to settle an absorbing encounter.

    2003 – Monaco 4-1 Sochaux

    There was no late drama for Monaco this time around as Didier Deschamps' side produced the kind of performance they dazzled Europe with en route to the Champions League final in the subsequent season.

    It was Ludovic Giuly who lit up the Stade de France with a stunning display marked by two wondrous goals as Monaco netted four in the space of 21 second-half minutes.

    He opened the scoring by finding the bottom-left corner with a vicious half-volley and, after Sebastien Squillaci and Dado Prso had effectively put the game beyond doubt, Giuly added gloss with an exquisite lob to cap one of the finest individual Coupe de la Ligue final performances.

    2008 – Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 Lens

    Ten years on from their previous triumph in the competition, PSG reclaimed the trophy with the help of a dreadful late error from Lens defender Hilton.

    Lens had looked the more likely to emerge victorious after Eric Carriere cancelled out Pauleta's deft lob.

    However, with the game on the brink of extra time, Hilton bundled over Peguy Luyindula and Bernard Mendy's staggered run-up fooled Ronan Le Crom as he calmly converted from 12 yards to send PSG fans into delirium.

    PSG were subsequently banned from the 2008-09 competition for an insulting banner unfurled by some of their supporters. The punishment was overturned on appeal, and they have since won the competition five further times under their Qatari owners.

  • Man City to defeat Liverpool and Arsenal hot favourites? - Opta predicts Premier League fixtures Man City to defeat Liverpool and Arsenal hot favourites? - Opta predicts Premier League fixtures

    As the world continues to battle against the coronavirus pandemic, football fans across the globe face another weekend scratching around for something to fill the void.

    The domestic calendar in England has been halted in a bid to reduce social gatherings and the Premier League has confirmed its fixtures will not resume at the start of May.

    While we cannot say for sure how this weekend's Premier League fixtures would have gone, our friends at Opta have come up with a system to predict the outcomes.

    What chance would your team have had? Take a look below.

    Predictor explainer:

    The Opta Predictor estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) given each team's attacking and defensive quality. The team's attacking and defensive qualities are based on four years of historic results, with more weighting given to their most recent results. The model will take into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes against and reward them accordingly.

    ASTON VILLA v WOLVES

    Home win: 27 per cent
    Draw: 28 per cent
    Away win: 45 per cent

    Struggling Aston Villa were rated as unlikely to get a key victory in their battle against relegation in their scheduled fixture at home to Wolves. A home win is the least likely of the three results, with Villa having lost five straight matches across all competitions. Top-four chasing Wolves have only won five of 14 top-flight away games this season, but are backed to pick up a sixth here.

    BOURNEMOUTH v NEWCASTLE UNITED

    Home win: 39 per cent
    Draw: 29 per cent
    Away win: 32 per cent

    The predictor percentages for this match are all in a very close range across the three results, indicating how hard it would have been to call. Home advantage sees Bournemouth, who sit in the bottom three, rated as narrow favourites, as they were bidding to end a four-match winless run against a Newcastle side sitting five places and eight points above them.

    ARSENAL v NORWICH CITY

    Home win: 67 per cent
    Draw: 21 per cent
    Away win: 12 per cent

    The predictor rated Arsenal versus Norwich City as the most one-sided match of the week, with the Gunners given a massive 67% chance of victory. No other team got over the 50% mark. Three straight wins boosted Mikel Arteta's men prior to the disruptions caused by COVID-19. Meanwhile, bottom-of-the-table Norwich only have one win in 15 away attempts in this season's Premier League.

    BRIGHTON v MANCHESTER UNITED

    Home win: 25 per cent win
    Draw: 29 per cent
    Away win: 46 per cent

    Of the 10 away teams in action, Manchester United were rated as the second-most likely to earn victory in their contest at Brighton and Hove Albion. Prior to the halt in football, United had closed within three points of Chelsea in the race for fourth place, while struggling Brighton are still yet to win a match in 2020.

    CRYSTAL PALACE v BURNLEY

    Home win: 41 per cent
    Draw: 30 per cent
    Away win: 29 per cent

    No game in this match week was rated as more likely to end in a draw than the mid-table battle between Crystal Palace and Burnley at Selhurst Park. Sitting 10th and 11th, Palace and Burnley are level on points and also have the same goal difference, with Sean Dyche's side only ahead in the table due to goals scored. It is Roy Hodgson's hosts who would have gone into the clash with a narrow advantage in win probability.

    WATFORD v SOUTHAMPTON

    Home win: 39 per cent
    Draw: 29 per cent
    Away win: 32 per cent

    Another tight match would have seen Watford host Southampton as Nigel Pearson's side continue their battle against relegation. Playing at home and with a win over Liverpool in their last contest at Vicarage Road, they would have gone in as very slight favourites, but Saints sit seven points better off and this is another that goes down as too close to call. 

    SHEFFIELD UNITED v TOTTENHAM

    Home win: 32 per cent
    Draw: 30 per cent
    Away win: 38 per cent

    A game between two teams chasing a European place, Sheffield United and Tottenham, was the one the predictor had significant trouble calling a winner for. At 30%, it is tied with the Palace v Burnley contest as the most likely draw of the weekend. Interestingly, Spurs – who have not won for six games - do go in with a better chance of victory despite the contest being held at Bramall Lane and Sheffield United, by contrast, being on a six-match unbeaten run.

    WEST HAM v CHELSEA

    Home win: 25 per cent
    Draw: 27 per cent
    Away win: 48 per cent

    Of the 10 away teams, Chelsea are given the best chance of victory in their match on the road against West Ham. Frank Lampard's men thumped Everton 4-0 before the break in action and are given a 48% chance of following that up with a win over their London rivals West Ham, who are on a poor run of one win in 10 games.

    MANCHESTER CITY v LIVERPOOL

    Home win: 46 per cent
    Draw: 27 per cent
    Away win: 27 per cent

    Unquestionably the biggest match of this week was due to be second-placed Manchester City's clash with runaway league leaders Liverpool. After an almost perfect season, Jurgen Klopp's men had finally started to show some vulnerability prior to the suspension of action. They had lost three of their last four games in all competitions and the predictor believes they were most likely to go down to another defeat here, although surely it would not have been enough to derail their title bid.

    EVERTON v LEICESTER CITY

    Home win: 36 per cent
    Draw: 29 per cent
    Away win: 35 per cent

    The closest match of the week is the game that was going to be the Monday night contest between Everton and Leicester City. The predictor can hardly split the two teams, with Everton given a 36% chance of winning, compared to 35% for the Foxes. Of the teams who are favourites, Carlo Ancelotti's men have the lowest percentage. They would have come into the game having collected only one point from three games, but those were against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. Leicester are third but without a win in three top-flight away fixtures.

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