Serena Williams’ long reign as world No 1 is over after suffering a shock defeat by Czech Karolina Pliskova in the US Open semi-finals.
Stretching back to February 18, 2013, 34-year-old Williams has held the top spot for 186 consecutive weeks, a record shared with German legend Steffi Graf.
Williams had to reach the final to give herself a chance of breaking Graf’s record but fell one step short as No 10 seed Pliskova stunned the New York crowd with a 6-2, 7-6 (3) win in one hour and 26 minutes.
German Angelique Kerber, who later defeated Caroline Wozniacki in the second semi-final, will now take over from Williams as the new No 1 on Monday.
Williams was in no mood to discuss losing her world No 1 ranking afterwards. After being asked about it in the post-match press conference, she bluntly replied: ‘I’m not talking about No 1.’
This was the same stage at which Williams had been upset by Italian Roberta Vinci last year, ending her hopes of claiming an historic Calendar Grand Slam.
Williams looked flat from the start and it did not take long for big-hitting Pliskova to break serve in the third game of the match, before later winning 11 of 12 points to see out the first set in just 26 minutes.
Pliskova then produced some dogged defence to break for 3-2 in the second set but could not consolidate, playing a poor game which allowed Williams to break back to the delight of the majority of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
But Williams could not complete the fightback in the end as Pliskova brought up match point at 6-5 in the second-set tiebreak and Williams’ long stint at world No 1 came to a sad end as she hit a double fault.
Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou later told ESPN that knee issues had hampered her movement and Williams confirmed that her physical condition was not at 100 per cent on the court.
Williams said: ‘I don’t think much really went well today. I made a lot of errors and I didn’t play as well as I have been playing
‘I have been having some serious left knee problems. I wasn’t tired. Fatigue had absolutely nothing to do with it. If I was tired I should definitely get into a new career.
‘I wasn’t able to move the way I wanted to move. When you’re injured you’re thinking of other things when you should be just playing and thinking of your shots. My mind was just a little bit everywhere. But it was what it was.’
After beating Venus Williams in the fourth round, Pliskova is the first player to beat both sisters at a Grand Slam since Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open.
Pliskova said: ‘It was always a dream to get a title, get to the semi-final, get to the final. It’s a big result for me. I hope I don’t stop yet, that there is still one more step to go. I’ll do anything for getting the title.
‘Even if I don’t get it, it’s a big result. I’m really happy to be there and even have the chance to play in the final here.
‘It doesn’t happen often that you’re playing the semi-final against Serena on the centre court here in New York. It doesn’t happen often that you’re in the final of Grand Slams.
‘I’m really excited to be there and really excited to be in a Grand Slam final for first time in my life.’