MELBOURNE: Serena Williams vowed today to keep “soldiering on” in a bid to reach 24 Grand Slam titles, admitting her game needed work after a sensational collapse in the Australian Open quarter-finals.
The 37-year-old American rallied back from a set down against Karolina Pliskova and was leading 5-1 in the final set before losing six games in a row to crash out 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. It was a cruel blow for a woman who has been chasing Margaret Court’s 24 Slams since winning in Melbourne in 2017 while pregnant, then taking time off to have a baby before returning to Grand Slam action at the French Open last year. She insisted another major win was still achievable despite the clock ticking. “I mean, the big picture for me is always winning. I’m not going to sit here and lie about that,” she said. “But it hasn’t happened yet, but I feel like it’s going to happen. Just keep taking it one match at a time, just keep soldiering on, I guess.” Williams admitted that having a year off and then returning to high-level tennis had not been easy for someone who expected to bounce straight back to her old winning ways. She said she has had to temper her expectations. “It’s definitely not easy for me. From day one, I expect to go out and, quite frankly, to win.
That hasn’t happened,” she said. “But I do like my attitude. I like that I don’t want to go out here and say, ‘I expect to lose because I had a year off, I’ve been playing for 10 months. I’m not supposed to win’. “I don’t have that attitude. I have the attitude of, ‘I’ve only been playing 10 months, but I expect to win, and if I don’t, it’s disappointing’. “I rather think of it that way and know that it’s going to happen sooner or later than making an excuse for myself. I don’t like making excuses.” Against Pliskova, Williams rolled her ankle when serving for the match at 5-1, but refused to blame it for what happened afterward, where she failed to win another point on serve in the match.
She said the big-serving Czech seventh seed was simply too good on the crunch points and she had learned lessons from the experience. “I know there’s a lot of things that I need to do, a lot of things I need to do to get better, a lot of maybe more just matches,” she said, adding that losing doesn’t get any easier. “I don’t really take losses well. But, as I said, Karolina literally played lights out starting 5-1, 40-30. Literally, I’ve never seen anything like it. “If anything, I think that’s a little bit easier to know, ‘Okay, next time I’m up 5-1 against anybody, whether it’s her or anyone, I just need to make sure I play lights out when I have match point’.”
Relevant: Serena Williams denied choking after falling victim to one of the greatest ever comebacks Wednesday, saying she was powerless as Czech foe Karolina Pliskova “just went crazy” to storm into the Australian Open semi-finals. Williams had Pliskova on the rack serving at 5-1 in the third set but the seventh seed fended off four match points to bounce back and end the American’s latest bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam. “She just played lights out on match point, literally hitting lines,” Williams said. “Just went for it, just went crazy on match point. She just played unbelievably.” The 37-year-old made a slow start and conceded the first set but had recovered and looked set for a hard-fought win before a desperate Pliskova went on the rampage.
“She was killing me… I was almost in the locker room, now I’m standing here as the winner. It’s a great feeling,” an exhausted Pliskova, seeded seven, said after the two-hour 10-minute epic. “My mind was in the locker room. I wasn’t playing very well in the third set but I thought let’s try, this game (will make it) 5-2. She got a little bit shaky in the end so I took my chances and I won.” Pliskova, who will play Japan’s Naomi Osaka in the semis, was on the brink until Williams double-faulted with the end in sight. The 37-year-old, a seven-time Australian champion, then failed to win a point on serve for the rest of the match. The elated Czech rated it the best comeback of her life and said she always believed she could beat the American legend.
“I know she’s the greatest ever, but I don’t want to put her somewhere where I would not have a chance to beat her,” she said in explaining how she approached the match. “I beat her before. She was No.1 at that time. I knew I’m going to have my chances. But I had to play well.” Williams said there was nothing she could do against an opponent in such form. “I can’t say that I choked on those match points, said the American, who made a comeback last year after having a baby. “She literally played her best tennis ever on those shots.” Williams seeded 16, had blazed through the early stages of the tournament, seeing off world number one Simona Halep in the fourth round. But against Pliskova she lacked the intensity she had previously displayed and was soon trailing for the first time during her campaign after a slew of uncharacteristic errors.
The American said it was a lesson to not take anything for granted on match point. “This is when you go psycho when you have match point… just go bananas on it,” she said. Pliskova, who entered this year’s tournament on a high after winning the Brisbane International warm-up, came out firing and bested Williams on serve to take the first set. Williams rebounded in the second before imploding in the decider. Former world number one Pliskova has made the quarter-finals in her last two appearances at Melbourne Park and made the final at the US Open in 2016. She has been a regular in the second week of Grand Slams in recent years, reaching the quarters or better six times since late 2016, but is still searching for a breakthrough win. The Czech said the win over Williams was a huge confidence booster before facing US Open champion Osaka. “She’s dangerous but nobody is more dangerous than Serena,” she said.
PSL 2019: Qalandars, the first side to reach 200!
SHARJAH: With the help of Umar Siddiq’s 53 off 38 balls and James Vince’s 84 off 41 balls, Qalandars became the first team to score double centuries in the ongoing PSL here today.
In the tenth PSL clash, Qalandars representing the Walled City took a solid stand against the Multan Sultans beating them by six wickets. Earlier, Qalandars won the toss and elected to field. Sultans set a victory target of 201 runs. S Lamichhane took three wickets. For Lahore Qalandars, AB de Villiers scored 52 runs and D Wiese 45.
Teams: Lahore Qalandars: Fakhar Zaman, Salman Butt, AB de Villiers, Sohail Akhtar, Salman Agha, Brendan Taylor, David Wiese, Sandeep Lamichhane, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Rahat Ali
Multan Sultans: James Vince, Laurie Evans, Umar Siddiq, Shoaib Malik, Dan Christian, Andre Russell, Hammad Azam, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Ilyas, Irfan Khan, Mohammad Irfan
Umar Amin inspires from Younis Khan’s presence in Peshawar Zalmi
ISLAMABAD: Peshawar Zalmi batsman Umar Amin Friday says that he takes his inspiration from legendary former cricketer and team mentor Younis Khan, whom he credits for his improved batting technique.
Talking to a private news channel, he said, “I consider myself very lucky to have Younis Khan in our dressing room. He guides us, he is helping me with technical stuff,” adding, he has been getting tips to play the ball more quickly. “I’m just taking it game by game and trying to live in the present. I want to be better with every passing match,” he shared when asked if he is targeting a spot in the World Cup squad for Pakistan.“I’m enjoying the PSL. It’s up to the selectors to decide who to pick,” Amin added. The 29-year old said the players are craving to play in front of their home crowd when the PSL action comes to Karachi and Lahore in the latter part of the tournament next month.
Cricket: S. Africa v S. Lanka scoreboard
Port Elizabeth: Scores at the end of Sri Lanka’s first innings on the second day of the second Test against South Africa at St George’s Park today.
South Africa, first innings, 222
Sri Lanka, first innings
D. Karunaratne c De Kock b Rabada 17
L. Thirimanne c and b Olivier 29
O. Fernando b Olivier 0
K. Mendis c De Kock b Olivier 16
K. Rajitha b Rabada 1
K. Perera c De Kock b Rabada 20
D. de Silva c De Kock b Mulder 19
N. Dickwella c Elgar b Rabada 42
S. Lakmal lbw b Maharaj 7
V. Fernando not out 0
L. Embuldeniya absent injured
Extras (lb1, nb2) 3
Total (37.4 overs) 154
Fall of wickets: 1-25 (Karunaratne), 2-34 (O. Fernando), 3-59 (Mendis), 4-64 (Thirimanne), 5-66 (Rajitha), 6-97 (Perera), 7-128 (De Silva), 8-154 (Lakmal), 9-154 (Dickwella)
Bowling: Steyn 10-2-39-0, Rabada 12.4-3-38-4, Olivier 10-1-61-3 (2nb), Mulder 3-2-6-1, Maharaj 2-0-9-1
Match situation: South Africa lead by 68 runs on the first innings
Toss: South Africa