New Delhi: The year 2018 witnessed some big sporting events, including the FIFA World Cup, hockey World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. There were some expected results, but there were also some great upsets. With the year drawing to a close, let us turn the pages backward and look at instances when 'favourites' were left stunned. 

1. Serena Williams's loss to Naomi Osaka at US Open

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In one of her most disappointing results, Serena Williams failed at her attempt to make history at the US Open as she lost a chance to claim a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title. Serena lost 6-2, 6-4 to Japan's Naomi Osaka, who in turn delivered her first major win in her first major final.

In what qualifies as one of the most controversial Grand Slam finals in recent years, the crowd booed Serena for losing her cool and getting into a tiff with chair umpire Carlos Ramos during the second set of the match. Ramos warned Serena that her coach had made hand signals trying to assist her, which constitutes a code violation. A upset Serena yelled at the umpire, “You owe me an apology. I have never cheated in my life! I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her. I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.” 

A hurt Serena smashed her racquet later on the court and was docked a point. Serena reportedly called Ramos a "thief" for having stolen her a point. Serena eventually lost the match which was followed by a rather awkward ceremony, with the crowd booing a sobbing Osaka.

2. Indian kabaddi teams' defeat to Iran at Asian Games

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At the Asian Games in 2014, which had taken place after the inaugural season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), India had won gold with a nervy two-point win over Iran. However, this year, the Indian men’s kabaddi team, rather unexpectedly, went down 18-27 to Iran in the semi-finals to end their 28-year golden run. The Asian Games has been dominated by Indian sides for almost three decades and India failing to progress to the final in a game that originated in their country was a big surprise.

The Indian women's team went one step further than their male counterparts but also ended up second-best to Iran. Defending champions India lost 24-27 in a thrilling Asian Games final which meant India were denied a third straight gold medal.

3. Germany's FIFA World Cup loss to South Korea in first-round exit

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Defending champions Germany failed to even qualify for the knockouts at the FIFA World Cup this year. The Germans, who have won four World Cups and finished runners-up four times, had entered this year’s tournament as favourites for the title, but suffered a 0-1 loss to a classy Mexico in the first match itself. Toni Kroos's late winner and some 'help' from the referee against Sweden kept them afloat, but they were sunk by two injury-time strikes against South Korea in their last match, which they were expected to win comfortably. This saw Germany crash out of the World Cup. It was the first time in 80 years that Germany were eliminated in the opening round of the showpiece event.

4. India going down to Bangladesh in Women’s Asia Cup

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In spite of a record of having been the six-time defending champions, India suffered a three-wicket defeat against Bangladesh in the final of the Women’s Asia Cup at the Kinrara Academy Oval in Kuala Lumpur. Following two facile wins over Thailand and Malaysia, India put up a below-par batting performance, scoring 141 for seven in their 20 overs, which was surpassed by Bangladesh in 19.4 overs.

India came up with another disappointing performance in World T20 semi-final against England, struggling with the bat, to go down by eight wickets, thus ending the dream of a maiden World T20 title. Their campaign in the Caribbean ended in controversy as experts and fans lashed out at captain Harmanpreet Kaur and coach Ramesh Powar for not having included the experienced former captain Mithali Raj in the semi-final squad.

5. Novak Djokovic’s shock defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas

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Fresh after the Wimbledon win, Novak Djokovic, who was in his fittest and finest form, was tipped to claim another title as he went into the Rogers Cup. The Serb, however, was in for a shock defeat as his campaign came to an abrupt end in the quarter-finals at the hands of Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas. The four-time Rogers Cup champion was sent home by Tsitsipas, who handed Djokovic the first of just three post-Wimbledon defeats.

6. Argentina’s defeat to lowest-ranked France in hockey World Cup

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The last time France stepped into the hockey World Cup was 28 years back, finishing seventh. Quite ironically, their last match in World Cup 1990 was against Argentina. The Olympic champions were one of the favourites for the title at Bhubaneswar this year. Argentina, however, crashed to a shocking 5-3 defeat to the lowest-ranked participating team France in their last pool stage match. France also pushed Spain out of the tournament.