Karolina Pliskova is two wins away from her first career Grand Slam title.
The seventh-seeded Pliskova defeated No. 16 seed Serena Williams in three sets in Tuesday's (ET) dramatic Australian Open quarterfinals showdown at Rod Laver Arena, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. It marked the first time Pliskova advanced past the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, and she won the final six games of the decisive set to do it after falling behind 5-1.
The Czech now holds a 2-2 record against Williams in her career and bounced back from a head-to-head quarterfinals loss at the 2018 U.S. Open.
It is a credit to Pliskova's mental and physical toughness that she overcame the 5-1 deficit in the third set, but the biggest story was how Williams lost.
She was serving for the victory after two breaks but was called for a foot fault and then suffered an apparent ankle injury. She then limped at times between points and was unable to tap back into the dominance she displayed throughout the second and majority of the third set.
Pliskova took full advantage, rediscovering the precise serves she unleashed in the first set and notching clutch breaks as she held off three more match points.
It was more of the same for her in this tournament. She came through in critical moments in decisive sets in the second round against Madison Brengle and third round against No. 27 Camila Giorgi as well.
By contrast, Williams lost just one set in the first four rounds of the tournament, and that came against top-seeded Simona Halep.
The loss prevented Williams' quest for a 24th career Grand Slam and eighth Australian Open title. It also marked her first loss before the semifinals in the year's first major—which she won while pregnant in 2017—since a 2014 loss to Ana Ivanovic in the round of 16.
Pliskova has never won a major, but the closest she came included a victory over Williams. She defeated the American in the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Open before losing in the final to Angelique Kerber.
It appeared as if Pliskova was going to cruise to victory when she controlled the first set with her serve. All she needed was a break to go up 2-1 because she won 81 percent of her first-serve points in the set to establish an early lead.
She continued rolling in the second with an early break to go up 3-2, but Williams responded with four straight points to earn a break right back and then prevailed in a four-deuce game for another break to force the decisive set.
All the momentum was on Williams' side, and a win seemed like a formality when she jumped to a 5-1 lead with two breaks, but the apparent ankle injury and Pliskova's timely points proved crucial.
Pliskova committed just 15 unforced errors to Williams' 37, which allowed her to overcome the momentum swings in the middle of the match and keep her pursuit of a major title alive.
Pliskova will play Naomi Osaka in the semifinals after the No. 4 seed defeated No. 6 Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-1 in Tuesday's other quarterfinals match. Pliskova holds a 2-1 record against her next opponent, though they split their 2018 matches.
Tuesday's result also prevented a rematch of the infamous 2018 U.S. Open final between Williams and Osaka in which the former clashed with chair umpire Carlos Ramos and the fans booed for part of Osaka's trophy ceremony. Osaka holds a 2-0 record against the all-time great with both wins coming last year.
All stats courtesy of the tournament's official website.