Serena shocked in New York

Serena Williams has been sent crashing out of the US Open and off top spot of the world rankings.

The number one seed was the overwhelming favourite to defeat Karolina Pliskova, who was making her first appearance in a grand slam semi, but a poor serving display and a host of unforced errors saw her beaten 6-2, 7-6 (5).

‘Déjà vu’ is defined as ‘a feeling of having already experienced the present situation’. No more was that true than on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday night.

Twelve months ago, Williams looked on course to secure her first calendar Grand Slam after a thoroughly dominant 2015 in which she had only been beaten twice previously. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Williams was beaten in the US Open semi-finals by Roberta Vinci, a player making her first appearance in the last four of a grand slam.

On Thursday, an all too familiar tale unfolded.

While Williams was expected to boss the clash, it was Pliskova who made the first move, securing a break in the third game to go 2-1 up before entrenching her advantage by breaking to love in the seventh game.

Williams won just 64 per cent of points when she made her first serve in the opener (a feat achieved just 64 per cent of the time) and eight points on the Pliskova serve as the Czech eased through the first set 6-2 in an almost unbelievably quick 26 minutes.

The second set was a tighter affair – it would be foolish to think Williams would ever go quietly, but again it was Pliskova who broke first to go 3-2 up. Williams had engineered 51 break points in the lead up to the semi-final, but had to wait until the sixth game for her first against Pliskova. She had three on offer, but only needed one as she roared back to life in every sense of the word, letting out a loud ‘come on’ as she secured the break.

And then it all fell apart again.

Back-to-back double faults were followed by an easy forehand into the net when 40-30 up. Williams failure to put Pliskova away with a smash at deuce left her vulnerable with a break point, but while the American held, she lost a degree of momentum.

With no further breaks a tiebreak was required, and as had been the case throughout, Pliskova was on the front foot early, going 3-0 up. Williams fought back, but at 5-6 and match point down the unthinkable happened: she double faulted.

In a sense it was a fitting way for the match to end; this was simply not the Williams the world was used to seeing. But while the 34-year-old was not at her best, credit must go to Pliskova who played incredible tennis in the biggest match of her career.

The 24-year-old will face the winner of Thursday’s second semi-final between Angelique Kerber, who will replace Williams as the new world number one, and Caroline Wozniacki in Saturday’s final.

For Williams, surpassing Steffi Graf’s record of 22 grand slams will have to wait for another year.

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