Serena Williams will have to wait for that record-equalling Grand Slam as Wang Qiang stunned her in the third round of the Australian Open.
The shock defeat was her earliest exit at the tournament in 14 years.
When they met at the US Open last summer, Wang won just one game and 15 points, but it was a completely different story this time as the 27th seed claimed a 6-4 6-7 (2) 7-5 victory.
It would have been fitting had the 38-year-old Williams finally moved level with Margaret Court in Melbourne as the tournament marks the 50th anniversary of her calendar Grand Slam.
However, she made 56 unforced errors compared to her opponent’s 20.
Williams won her first tournament in three years in Auckland earlier this month and arrived in Melbourne with a determined intensity that seemed to indicate she was ready to put four recent grand slam final losses behind her[/caption]
“I just made far too many errors to be a professional athlete today,” she said.
“If we were just honest with ourselves, it’s all on my shoulders. I lost that match. It’s not about the tournament, it’s just like I can’t play like that. I literally can’t do that again. That’s unprofessional. It’s not cool.”
Caroline Wozniacki’s career, meanwhile, ended with a loss to Ons Jabeur, who made her own grand slam breakthrough with a 7-5 3-6 7-5 victory.
The former world number one announced last month that the Australian Open, the scene of her greatest triumph when she broke her grand slam duck in 2018, would also be the stage for her professional farewell at the age of 29.
“There’s a lot of emotions, a lot of things I can’t compartmentalise now,” said the Dane.
“A lot of excitement. A little sadness. Flashbacks to since I was a kid to this moment.
“The fact that it’s gone so quick but at the same time it feels like I’ve been out here for a long time. Players coming up to me and congratulating me. Just feeling the love from everyone has been very special.”
Wozniacki had staged a trademark fightback to beat Dayana Yastremska in the second round and looked like she might do the same when she recovered from 0-3 in the deciding set.
But Jabeur, the first Arab woman to make the last 16 at a slam, had not read the script and Wozniacki pushed a forehand long on the first match point.
In a tearful post-match interview, she made a joke about the shot that has been her major weakness, saying: “I think it was only fitting that my last match would be a three-setter, a grinder, and that I would finish my career with a forehand error.”
At her press conference later, she added: “Throughout the match there were a couple of times where I was like, ‘Shoot, this could be my last one’. It was just like, ‘I don’t want it to be the last one, I want to be out there fighting’.
“I fought like my life depended on it. I think the result today doesn’t matter to me as much as the way that I fought, that I gave it everything. I wanted to be out there. I did everything. Throughout my career, that’s what I’m known for.”