MELBOURNE, Australia – Defending champion Serena Williams slumped out of the Australian Open in a 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal loss to third-ranked Jelena Jankovic on Tuesday.
Williams, who was unseeded and ranked No. 81 when she won here last year for her eighth Grand Slam title, struggled with her serve and made 36 unforced errors trying to combat Jankovic’s go-for-broke game.
Williams had not dropped a set in her four previous matches, including a 6-3, 6-4 result against 12th-ranked Nicole Vaidisova in a rematch of last year’s semifinal, but dropped serve twice in the opening set.
Jankovic broke Williams and served for the match at 5-3, only to be broken herself. Williams led 40-15 in the next game only to fall apart again, double-faulting to set up match point, then sending a forehand wide.
“It was an unbelievable match, I am still shaking,” said Jankovic, reaching the semifinals for the first time at Melbourne Park and third time at a major. “I am so happy.
“I came here with no expectations – it’s amazing to beat the defending champion and in general a champion like Serena, it doesn’t happen every day.”
Jankovic had to fend off three match points in the third set of her first-round match, which included 15 service breaks, before edging Tamira Paszek, 2-6, 6-2, 12-10.
She followed that with straight-sets wins over Edina Gallovits and Casey Dellacqua and was taken to three by No. 30 Virginie Razzano.
Jankovic lost to Williams in the fourth round here last year between runs to the semifinals at the 2006 U.S. Open and 2007 French Open – her best efforts in Grand Slam tournaments to date.
“Now, getting revenge it feels so good,” said the 22-year-old Jankovic, now 3-2 in her career against Serena Williams. “I’ve beaten the Williams sisters a couple times. But here it is very special.”
After taking the first two games, Williams became increasingly sluggish. Normally bouncing on the balls of her feet and renowned for never giving up on a ball, she was often caught flatfooted, left to watch as Jankovic’s shots landed for winners or to whack unforced errors awkwardly into the net.
Her best efforts came when she didn’t have to run and had time to set up for a full swing. For most of the match, Williams’ usually powerful serve averaged 10 mph slower than in the last round, and she was broken seven times.
Her shoulders frequently drooped as the points piled up against her. On other occasions, Williams looked to the sky as if hoping for divine intervention. Even her shouts of “Come on!” sounded weak.
The fans shared her disbelief, with one shouting: “Wake up Serena!” By the time sister Venus showed up, Williams had lost the first set – squandering five break points in two games and netting an easy forehand volley on set point.