Winning a Grand Slam title is the ultimate goal for all professional tennis players. The Australian Open has, though, eluded even some of the game’s all-time greats. The Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup is missing from the trophy haul of some of women’s tennis’ finest players.
With the 2021 Australian Open set to begin, here is a look at the two best players to never win the women’s singles event in the Open Era:
Seven-time major champion Venus Williams has been unable to add the Australian Open to her illustrious body of work. In 20 appearances at the event to date – she has lost in the final twice, the semifinals once, and the quarterfinals six times. The American first featured at the 1998 edition – as an unseeded 18-year-old. Williams was defeated by second seed Lindsay Davenport in three sets in the last eight. A year later, Davenport beat Williams at the same stage in straight sets.
In 2001, Williams saw off future champion Amelie Mauresmo in three sets in the fourth round, before edging past Amanda Coetzer 8-6 in the third set in the quarterfinals. The third seed was then dismantled 6-1, 6-1 by top seed Martina Hingis in the semifinals. The following year, second-seeded Williams lost to eighth seed Monica Seles in a three-set quarterfinal.
Seeded second again in 2003, the American made it to her first Australian Open final – without dropping a set. Williams defeated seventh seed Daniela Hantuchova in the last eight, and fifth seed Justine Henin in the last four. She fell to the top seed – her sister Serena Williams – in a tight three-set championship match.
Williams reached the quarterfinals in 2008 and 2010 – where she lost to Ana Ivanovic and Li Na respectively. The American, seeded 18th, then made the last eight again in 2015 – where she was beaten by Madison Keys in three sets.
In 2017, Williams – aged 37 and seeded 13th – memorably made it to her second Australian Open final. After reaching the semifinals without losing a set, she came from a set down to beat CoCo Vandeweghe and set up a rematch of the 2003 title match. History repeated itself as the American was defeated again by second seed Serena Williams – this time 6-4, 6-4.
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario won four major titles but was unable to secure the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific during her distinguished career. In 11 Australian Open appearances – the Spaniard lost in the final twice, the semifinals three times, and the quarterfinals three times. Despite turning professional in 1986, Sanchez-Vicario first entered the event in 1991. Seeded sixth, she defeated fourth seed Gabriela Sabatini 6-1, 6-3 to reach the last four. There, the Spaniard was beaten by 10th seed Jana Novotna in straight sets.
In 1992, Sanchez-Vicario progressed to the semifinals for the loss of one set – and after receiving a walkover from ninth seed and quarterfinal opponent Manuela Maleeva. The fourth seed fell 2-6, 2-6 to top seed and eventual champion Seles. She then reached the last four again the following year – without dropping a set. Sanchez-Vicario, seeded fourth again, lost 5-7, 4-6 to second seed Steffi Graf.
The Spaniard went a step further by reaching the final in 1994 – only losing a set to Magdalena Maleeva in the fourth round en route. The second seed then beat Maleeva’s older sister Manuela Maleeva in the quarterfinals, and Sabatini in the semifinals. In the championship match, Sanchez-Vicario was hammered 6-0, 6-2 by the top seed Graf.
She then made the final again in 1995 – dropping no sets and just 23 games on the way. After seeing off Naoko Sawamatsu in the quarterfinals, and Marianne Werdel-Witmeyer in the semifinals, the top seed fell 3-6, 2-6 to fourth seed Mary Pierce. Sanchez-Vicario reached the quarterfinals the following year – where she was defeated 16-14 by Chanda Rubin in an epic third set. The Spaniard made the quarterfinals again in 1998 and 2000 – losing to Anke Huber and Hingis respectively.