Serena Williams' shock loss opens Australian Open door for Li Na
Injured American racks up errors as she crashes out to Ana Ivanovic, leaving the Chinese No 1 with a big chance of winning tournament
Li Na's hopes of winning her second grand slam title received a huge boost yesterday after the shock upset of Serena Williams blew the Australian Open women's draw wide open.
While Li cruised into the quarter-finals yesterday, an injury-hit Serena Williams crashed out against Ana Ivanovic, denying her an 18th major title and the chance to win a rare calendar-year grand slam.
Williams won the first set, but Ivanovic, capitalising on her poor movement and high error count, took her first set against the top seed and then raced through the decider to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
The shock result robs Williams of the chance to join Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on 18 slams, and draw nearer Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22.
It also puts paid to her bid - talked up by her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou - to win all four grand slam titles this year, a feat last achieved by Graf in 1988.
Williams' departure provides a giant opportunity to those left in the draw, including Ivanovic, defending champion Victoria Azarenka and Li, who beat Ekaterina Makarova to reach the quarters.
Afterwards, the American world number one confessed that she was on strong medication for a back injury and nearly pulled out injured before her third-round win over Daniela Hantuchova.
"I almost pulled out. I'm such a competitor. I mean, I probably should have," Williams said.
She added: "I made a tremendous amount of errors, shots I missed I normally don't miss, I haven't missed since the '80s. I'm just not used to missing those shots."
Williams was on a 25-match winning streak and at 32, is coming off one of her most successful seasons when she won a career-high 11 titles, including the French Open and US Open.
"I obviously wasn't hitting the way I normally would hit and wasn't moving the way I normally would move, and making a lot of errors that I normally would not make and I haven't made in a couple of years," she said.
"But it's okay. You know, I feel like I know for a fact I can play so much better than what I did today, so with that, knowing that, I'm not disappointed or anything. I just know that I can play 10 times better than what I did today," Williams added.
Ivanovic, the former world number one who is resurgent under new coach Nemanja Kontic, will now play Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, 19, after she overcame local hope, Australia's Casey Dellacqua with a with a 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-0 win.
China's Li was irresistible in her 6-2, 6-0 win over Russian 22nd seed Makarova as the two-time finalist reached the last eight in just under an hour.
The world number four has twice been beaten in the final in Melbourne, in 2011 and 2013, but now is three victories away from winning the title.
Li almost didn't make the fourth round this year after a first-set meltdown against Lucie Safarova on Friday, but was much improved yesterday
"I think yesterday I did a lot of practice because I really made [coach] Carlos [Rodriguez] sad two days ago during the match," she said. "Normally every match we will talk after the match, but you could see his face. Really unhappy. Even yesterday ... for sure he was so p****d."