Thursday 27 June 2019

I did not choke, insists Williams after ankle injury derails Slam hopes

Serena Williams. Photo: Reuters
Serena Williams. Photo: Reuters

Simon Briggs

Serena Williams denied she had suffered a dramatic choke yesterday, after a 23-minute meltdown had seen her waste a 5-1 deciding-set lead - as well as four match points - against seventh-seed Karolina Pliskova.

"I can't say I choked on those match points," Williams said in a press conference that was as quiet and understated as her mien on the court.

"She literally played her best tennis ever on those shots."

The most famous choke in tennis history was surely that of the late lamented Jana Novotna, mainly because her slide from 4-1 up in the decider against Steffi Graf happened in the 1993 Wimbledon final.

In yesterday's instance, though, there were extenuating circumstances.

Williams rolled an ankle in the rally that cost her a first match point. The incident clearly jolted her mentally, even if her movement was not obviously affected.

She played the issue down after her 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 defeat, saying Pliskova had "just played lights-out on match point".

Asked why she had not requested a visit from the trainer, she said: "I hate calling the trainer out. And at that point I didn't feel like I needed it. I like to just kind of tough it out."

Patrick Mouratoglou, her coach, said later Williams would have been unable to play her semi-final even if she had closed out the match.

"She could have asked for the physio because she was hurt," he said.

"I think she didn't because she knew her tournament was over. Even with a very tight strap she could have tried and kept going, eventually winning the match, why not? I don't think she would have been able to play the day after. I think that's what she thought."

At least Williams remained calm yesterday, declining to challenge the officials even after she was called for a foot fault on that first match point, seconds before her ankle roll. Had that call been made on Arthur Ashe Stadium, we might have seen fireworks.

Elsewhere, Novak Djokovic all but earned a bye into the semi-finals yesterday when Kei Nishikori - who had already battled through three five-setters at this event - retired with a thigh injury after a set and a game.

Djokovic's opponent tomorrow will be Lucas Pouille - the Frenchman who had never won a match at this event until this year.

It was a tough day for Jamie Murray, who was beaten in the quarter-finals of both the men's and mixed doubles events.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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