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Serena Williams (left) congratulates Naomi Osaka after she ended the American's bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title in the Australian Open semi-finals on Thursday © AFP Paul CROCK

Tennis

Four years of hurt: Serena’s Slam failures since her 23rd title

MELBOURNE, Australia, Feb 18  – Serena Williams was knocked out of the Australian Open in the semi-finals by Naomi Osaka on Thursday, ending her latest bid to match Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

Here is a rundown of the American great’s failed attempts at history since winning her last major at the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant.

– French Open 2018 –

In her first major tournament since giving birth to daughter Alexis, she withdrew before her fourth-round clash with Maria Sharapova citing a pulled muscle in her chest.

She suffered the injury in a doubles match with sister Venus, with her serve noticeably hampered.

“I’ve had issues with the right pectoral muscle to the point where I can’t serve,” she said.

– Wimbledon 2018 –

Fell agonisingly short in the final as she chased an eighth title on the All-England Club grass, defeated 6-3, 6-3 by Angelique Kerber as the German won her first Wimbledon and third Grand Slam crown.

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“To all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried,” said Williams, then 36, just 10 months after a difficult childbirth and medical complications.

“Angelique played really well.”

– US Open 2018 –

Suffered an infamous meltdown in the final that left Osaka in tears as she won 6-2, 6-4 to become the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title.

The second-set tantrum was sparked by umpire Carlos Ramos warning Williams for receiving coaching. A second code violation for racquet abuse, along with a point penalty, then caused Williams to erupt.

She tearfully accused him of being a “thief” and demanded an apology.

“You are the liar,” she ranted, costing her a game penalty for verbal abuse which put Osaka a break ahead at 5-3, a lead that proved decisive.

– Australian Open 2019 –

Looked headed for another Slam semi-final at 5-1 up in the third set against seventh seed Karolina Pliskova.

But she somehow squandered four match points as the big-serving Czech clawed her way back into the match.

There was still time for Williams to save two match points at 5-6, 0-40 but she netted on the third as Pliskova shocked a packed Rod Laver Arena with one the tournament’s greatest comebacks to win the last-eight clash 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

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– French Open 2019 –

Unseeded American Sofia Kenin announced herself at the highest level with a 6-2, 7-5 third-round defeat of Williams, her earliest Grand Slam exit since Wimbledon in 2014 when she fell at the same stage to Garbine Muguruza.

Williams had dropped just 12 games in her first two matches but the then 35th-ranked Kenin, 17 years her junior, took full advantage of 34 unforced errors from her lauded opponent.

“It’s just crazy,” said the 20-year-old Kenin. “I would have never guessed that in a few years I’d be playing Serena Williams in the third round at Roland Garros. I would have been jumping off the couch back then.”

– Wimbledon 2019 –

Destroyed 6-2, 6-2 in just 56 minutes in the final by Simona Halep, who described it as her finest performance.

Williams did not earn a single break point as she was blown away in just under an hour. She confessed afterwards that she was like “a deer in the headlights”.

“Whenever a player plays that amazing you just kind of have to take your hat off and give them a nod,” said Williams.

“I just was trying different things. Today nothing really helped.”

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– US Open 2019 –

Toppled by 19-year-old 15th seed Bianca Andreescu 6-3, 7-5 in the final, in a performance Williams called “inexcusable” despite fighting back from 5-1 down and match point in the second set.

“I was just thinking, honestly at that point, ‘Wow, this is terrible’,” Williams said.

“Like, ‘You got to play better. I have to do better.’ I just couldn’t go down like that, so I just wanted to play a little bit better.”

Andreescu finally sealed her maiden Slam victory on her third match point.

– Australian Open 2020 –

China’s Wang Qiang takes advantage of 56 unforced errors to register biggest win of her career, 6-4, 6/7 (2/7), 7-5 in the third round, but it took the 27th seed six match points to get across the finish line after more than two-and-a-half hours of battle.

“I just made far too many errors to be a professional athlete today,” said Williams, who was furious with herself.

“I can’t play like that. I literally can’t do that again. That’s unprofessional. It’s not cool.”

– US Open 2020-

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Williams is outstanding in the opening set of her semi-final against Victoria Azarenka before suffering an Achilles injury.

Needs an injury timeout in the third set after limping back to her seat and has her ankle taped before returning to court.Loses 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, but says she is getting nearer a 24th Slam title.

– French Open 2020 –

Pulls out before her second-round match of Covid-delayed tournament in September because of the Achilles injury picked up in New York, saying she was “struggling to walk”.

The withdrawal means 2020 is the first year since 2006 that Williams has failed to make a final of any of the four Grand Slam tournaments, though Wimbledon was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

– Australian Open 2021 –

Relaxed and playing great tennis until she runs into Osaka, in the semi-final, with the world number three again having the upper hand as in their previous Slam meeting at the 2018 US Open final.

Williams breaks Osaka in first game of the match but is overpowered from then on as she loses 6-3, 6-4 in 1hr 15min.

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