Serena Williams' quest for a 24th grand slam singles title goes on after a fourth-round defeat by Elena Rybakina at the French Open.
Having come into the tournament with low expectations, Williams had looked solid through her first three matches, and, with big names falling by the wayside, the American surged up the list of title favourites.
She went into the match against her 21-year-old Kazakh opponent as the only top-20 player left in the bottom half but an unexpected finalist is now guaranteed after Williams fell to a 6-3 7-5 defeat.
Rybakina was not born when Williams made her debut at Roland Garros but a brilliant start to 2020 marked her out as a potential major challenger.
She has not shown the same form this season, and this was her first time through to the last 16 at a slam, but she played a calm and controlled match on the biggest stage of her life.
Rybakina's big serve and powerful forehand frequently proved too much for Williams, who did not play badly but lacked precision at important moments.
Rybakina moved ahead early, breaking to lead 3-1, and, although Williams responded with a break back for 3-4, she dropped serve again straight away and the young Kazakh clinched the set on her fourth chance.
The second set followed a similar pattern, with Williams staying in touch with Rybakina but vulnerable every time her opponent found her hitting zone.
A final break for 6-5 proved the key - Rybakina appearing nerveless as she converted her first match point.
Williams can at least take a good week of match practice into Wimbledon, which is surely her best chance of finally claiming that elusive 24th.
Photos: Serena Williams through the years, as she goes for 24th Grand Slam today in tennis
WILLIAMS AND HALARD-DUCGIS
Serena Williams of United States, right, and Julie Halard-Ducgis of France, on the winners' podium, hold their trophies during the award presentation of Toyota Princess Cup Womens Tennis in Tokyo, Sunday, Oct 8, 2000. Williams beat Halard-Cucgis to win the first place and the French player took the second. (AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa)
Venus, left, and Serena Williams hold their trophy after defeating Japan's Ai Sugiyama and Julie Halard Decugis of France, in the Women's Doubles final on Centre Court at Wimbledon Monday, July 10, 2000. (AP Photo/Dave Caulkin)
Holding her racket with broken strings, U.S. tennis player Serena Williams bursts out in joy after beating Belgiums' Justine Henin 6-3, 7-6 in their quarter final match of the womens WTA tennis world championship in the Oympic hall in Munich, southern Germany, Friday, Nov. 2, 2001. (AP Photo/Diether Endlicher)
Serena Williams, left, and her mother, Oracene, watch Venus Williams plays fellow American Kristina Brandi in their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Wednesday, Jan 16, 2002. Williams won the match 6-3, 6-4. Serena, seeded fifth, withdrew before her opening match Monday with an injured ankle. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
American Serena Williams returns a backhand to Slovakia's Martina Sucha during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament Wednesday May 29, 2002 in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Serena Williams, right, hugs her sister Venus after winning the women's final of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros stadium in Paris Saturday June 8, 2002. Serena Williams defeated her sister Venus 7-5, 6-3.(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
BRITAIN WIMBLEDON TENNIS
Serena, left, and Venus Williams hold their trophies after winning the Women's Doubles championship on the Centre Court at Wimbledon Sunday, July 7, 2002. The sisters defeated Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain and Paola Suarez of Argentina to win the championship. (AP Photo/Dave Caulkin)
Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts during her fourth round match against Serbia's Jelena Jankovic at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2007.Williams won in straight sets 6-3 6-2. (AP Photo/Rick Stevens)
ESPY Awards Show
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, left, and Serena Williams present the award for record breaking performance at the 15th annual ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 11, 2007, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
U.S. Serena Williams listens to a journalists question during a press conference after retiring with an injury on her right leg during the Madrid Open Tennis against Francesca Schiavone from Italy in the Caja Magica in Madrid, Monday May 11, 2009.(AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Venus Williams, right, and her sister Serena pose for the cameras at Eastbourne, Monday June 16, 1997 during the Direct Line Ladies Tennis Championships. Williams wanted as much grass-court play as possible before Wimbledon. She's getting it. Williams, the 16-year-old American preparing for her first appearance at the All England Club, turned down a wild card at the Eastbourne tournament in order to play in the qualifying rounds. (AP Photo/str)
VENUS SERENA WILLIAMS
Venus Williams, left, and sister Serena raise their arms after their center court match at the Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, January 21, 1998. Venus won the match 7-6, 6-1. (AP Photo/Rick Stevens)
Venus Williams, left, and her sister Serena Williams share a light moment during their doubles tennis match against Els Callens of Belgium and Rita Grande of Italy at the French Open at Roland Garros stadium in Paris Wednesday, June 2, 1999. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
Serena Williams, Richard Williams
Serena Williams of the U.S., left, warms up on a practice court as her father Richard Williams looks on, before her second round single tennis match at the Eastbourne International grass court tournament in Eastbourne, England, Wednesday, June 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
APTOPIX Britain Wimbledon Tennis
Serena Williams of the US prepares to serve during the match against Romania's Simona Halep at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, Thursday, June 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Serena Williams, of the United States, yells as she charges the net for a return against Yaroslava Shvedova, of Kazakhstan, during the third round of the 2013 U.S. Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Venus Williams, Serena Williams
U.S tennis players and sister's Venus, and Serena Williams, right, arrive for the Pre-Wimbledon Party, at Kensington Roof Gardens in west London, Thursday June 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)
Britain Wimbledon Tennis
Serena Williams of the United States, right, embraces her father Richard Williams, center, as her sister Venus looks on, after she defeated Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland to win the women's final match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, England, Saturday, July 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
APTOPIX US Open Tennis
Serena Williams reacts after a point against Bethanie Mattek-Sands during the third round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
APTOPIX France Tennis French Open
Serena Williams, of the U.S, celebrates as she defeats Russia's Maria Sharapova during the Women's final match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium Saturday, June 8, 2013 in Paris. Williams won 6-4, 6-4. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
APTOPIX US Open Tennis
Serena Williams looks up during a match against Coco Vandeweghe at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Serena Williams holds the championship trophy after beating Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, in the championship match at the 2012 US Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in New York. Two points from defeat, Williams suddenly regained her composure to come back and win the last four games, beating No. 1-ranked Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 on Sunday for her fourth U.S. Open title and 15th Grand Slam title overall. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Serena Williams of U.S. holds up her winning trophy as she poses with the ball boys and girls after the final of the China Open tennis tournament at the National Tennis Stadium in Beijing, China, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013. Williams defeated Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 6-2, 6-2. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Serena Williams of the United States plays a forehand return to Maria Sharapova of Russia during their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016.(AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Serena Williams returns the ball to Simona Halep, of Romania, during a final match at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015, in Mason, Ohio. Williams defeated Halep 6-3, 7-6 (5). (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Serena Williams speaks during a press conferene at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Serena Williams of the Philippine Mavericks serves against Ana Ivanovic of Serbia during the women's singles match in the 2015 International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015 at the Mall of Asia Arena at suburban Pasay city south of Manila, Philippines. Williams won the match 6-3.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
France Tennis French Open
Serena Williams of the U.S. serves the ball in the semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament against Netherlands' Kiki Bertens at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Friday, June 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
APTOPIX France Tennis French Open
Serena Williams of the U.S. holds the trophy after defeating Russia's Maria Sharapova in two sets 6-4, 6-4, in the women's final of the French Open tennis tournament, at Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Saturday June 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Australian Open Tennis
Serena Williams of the United States serves to Vesna Dolonc of Serbia during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Serena Williams of the U.S. celebrates upon beating Maria Sharapova of Russia 6-2, 7-6 in their semifinal match during the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)