2020 Australian Open: Qiang Wang stuns Serena Williams in three sets
Photo: Lin Bo-Bo

AbwoOne of the biggest upsets in recent Grand Slam history occurred at Rod Laver Arena as 27th seed Wang Qiang shocked 23-time major champion Serena Williams  6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5 in the third round of the Australian Open

The Chinese number one was ahead by a set and a break, leading 6-4, 5-3 only to see Williams storm back to claim the second set before Wang rebounded to win a tense final set.

Wang takes surprise lead

Both players got off to a good start on serve before Wang created a break point with a fierce drive only to see Williams step up her baseline game and hold. A 0-30 hole for the Chinese was quickly erased after some fine hitting that moved the American side-to-side to hold for 2-2.

Wang was controlling play from the baseline throughout the match/Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Wang was controlling play from the baseline throughout the match/Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Williams was on the hunt for a break that could create some separation and she had a chance in the sixth game only to overhit on the return. Two more break points come and go, Wang surviving when dragging the American into long rallies. The 27th seed let 15-30 come and go, Williams taking a 4-3 lead.

Wang's first serve bailed her out of trouble to hold for 4-4 and after scampering up to put away a Williams drop shot to hold three break points, she only needed one to claim a 5-4 advantage. Serving for the set, Wang lost the first point before extracting four straight errors to take a stunning lead.

Williams hits back from deficit to claw even

The previous encounter between these two offered little to think an upset was possible, Williams romping 6-0, 6-1 in last year's US Open quarterfinals, but Wang was going toe-to-toe with the eighth seed. A hold from 15-30 down was sealed with an ace and she was all over the seven-time Australian Open champion from the back of the court.

Exquisite defending and timely hitting from the baseline were the hallmark of the Chinese's attack and she nailed an inside-out forehand to break in the fifth game for a 3-2 edge. At deuce, Wang offered up the shot of the match: a running forehand that kisses the outside of the line on her way to another hold.

Errors were plaguing the American and she let Wang off the hook at deuce with more error-strewn play off the ground, the Chinese one game from a monumental upset. For her part, Williams easily held, putting the pressure on the 27th seed to serve it out.

Champions don't go away easily and after a rare Wang error, Williams held two break points and a 24-shot culminated with the American coming out on top, the set level at 5-5. Each woman held, not without a scare for Williams and a tiebreaker would decide the set.

Williams showed the heart of a champion, fighting back to take the second set/Photo: Lee-Jin Man/Associated Press
Williams showed the heart of a champion, fighting back to take the second set/Photo: Lee-Jin Man/Associated Press

Wang was unlucky to fall behind 2-1, a net cord favoring Williams and she bolted ahead 5-2 after the Chinese couldn't finish at the net. Two points later, an unreturnable serve sealed the set and the match was even, Williams breathing a sigh of relief to force a deciding set.

Wang prevails in pulsating third set

Wang picked herself up and crunched a forehand winner to set up an early break point, consecutive aces and a fine backhand winner getting Williams to 1-1. Neither player was being troubled much on serve at this point, the Chinese moving forward to wrap up the game and a 3-2 lead.

The Williams serve, her greatest weapon, punctuated a battling hold, but her next service game was a test, saving a break point for 4-4. An ace on game point serving to stay in the match made it 5-5. Wang dug out of 15-30 to reclaim her advantage at 6-5, setting up what would be the biggest game of her career.

If she was nervous, the 27th seed sure wasn't showing it, racing out to 0-30 on the Williams serve. A forehand miss makes it 15-30, an error by the American bringing up two match points. Wang misfired on both chances, but was given a third opportunity when Williams went wide.

A backhand into the net by the American gave Wang a thoroughly deserved win after two hours, 41 minutes of remarkable tennis, the Chinese advancing to a fourth round matchup with Ons Jabeur.

Wang waves to the crowd after a brilliant performance/Photo:
Wang waves to the crowd after a brilliant performance/Photo: Lee-Jin Man/Associated Press
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