January is a major month in the professional Tennis calendar due to it being time for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, the Australian Open. Held in Melbourne and played on plexicushion hard courts, the “happy slam” is arguably the best-attended of the four tournaments in that circuit, with over 700,000 people watching it last year.

The Australian Open is also well-remembered for having Serena Williams win the women’s singles championship while pregnant in 2017, and while some tough opponents were lined up for her in 2019, it was hoped that she would still prevail.

That optimism was crushed on Wednesday by a shocking, hard-fought, loss.

Serena leads, then loses

A prospective repeat of Serena Williams’ great campaign during the Australian Open two years ago ended in elimination for her this year. After fighting her way to the 2019 quarterfinals in Melbourne Park on Monday, January 21, the American tennis legend faltered through an unexpected game injury.

This caused her to lose points against her quarterfinals opponent, seventh seed Karolina Pliskova from the Czech Republic. Though she managed to take set two after losing the first, Serena was thrown off by a rolled ankle, causing her to lose a promising set-winning lead of 5-1, the BBC reported.

Serena found her toughest 2019 Australian Open challenge yet in Pliskova on Wednesday morning at Melbourne Park’s Rod Laver Area, when she took the first set with 6-4.

The younger Williams sister returned the favor by reversing the numbers in set two, beating the Czech there 4-6.

Serena was in prime form for set three, getting five match points to Pliskova’s one when quick maneuvering had her land badly on one ankle. Her opponent took advantage and wiped 5-1 down to 5-7, with the American failing to recover, resulting in an epic comeback win for Pliskova.

The Telegraph reported that Pliskova said, "I was almost in the locker room,"...but now I'm standing here as the winner."

Pliskova recovers to win

In the post-match interview, Karolina Pliskova remarked that her own play had been too passive against Serena Williams, admitting she felt “mentally down” when her opponent built her five-match point lead before her bad break.

Seeing the American get “shaky” spurred the Czech seventh seed to rally and grab the victory. She advances to the Australian Open semis, facing Naomi Osaka.

One other notable occurrence at Melbourne for 2019 was the possibility that one of present-day tennis’ big stars, Andy Murray, will be pushing through with his retirement, announced before the Australian Open began. The Scotland-born British player has been struggling with his longtime hip injury which may have cost him his opening match last January against Spain’s Roberta Bautista Agut, the 22nd seed.