Barty breaks curse to banish Wimbledon demons

 

Ash Barty intends to leverage growing experience as the world No.1 prepares to face Petra Kvitova in the Australian Open quarter-finals after barely surviving a ferocious challenge from American nemesis Alison Riske.

The world No.1 advanced to the last eight - and a clash with 2019 finalist and dual Wimbledon champion Kvitova - with a gutsy 6-3 1-6 6-4 Australia Day triumph.

Barty and Kvitova met four times last year, with Kvitova winning at Melbourne Park before Barty prevailed in Miami, Beijing and Shenzhen.

Asked what made her better equipped to handle Kvitova, Barty said: "More experienced.

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Ash Barty is into the quarter-finals. Picture: Michael Klein
Ash Barty is into the quarter-finals. Picture: Michael Klein

"I've played Petra a few more times. Yeah, tactically the last few times we've played Petra, we've had a small, small adjustment, small change.

"It's never an easy match. I think maybe all but one have gone to three sets. I think I'm looking forward to another battle against a quality opponent."

Celebrating recognition as Young Australian of the Year, Barty responded magnificently to weather a mid-match charge from unseeded Riske, before almost snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Ahead 4-1 in the deciding set, the French Open champion was set back on her heels as Riske steamed back from the brink to almost end Barty's tournament.

"It was third time a charm for me last week," Barty said, referring to finally landing a home-soil title in Adelaide.

"And third time a charm tonight.

"It was very tough. Just had to hang in there.

 

Ash Barty and Alison Riske after the clash. Picture: Michael Klein
Ash Barty and Alison Riske after the clash. Picture: Michael Klein

"Tonight was important to get off to a good start. I was a little bit loose, pressed too much.

"Very proud of the way we were able to bring it back in the third, go back to the patterns I wanted to play."

Admitting to struggling with the breeze, Barty hit 20 winners but made 34 unforced errors.

Underlining the tightness of the contest, Barty won 72 points for the match to Riske's 70.

The American's double fault on match point triggered wild celebrations on Rod Laver Arena but it was an undeserved end for the tenacious baseliner.

Armed with two victories, including a fourth-round Wimbledon scalp, Riske again threatened Barty's passage after a slow start.

In the end, class told as Barty adjusted better to the conditions when it mattered most.

Next comes Kvitova, the mercurial Czech left-hander.

 

Ash Barty will face Petra Kvitova is the quarters. Picture: Michael Klein
Ash Barty will face Petra Kvitova is the quarters. Picture: Michael Klein

"I love Petra but let's hope she doesn't break my heart on Tuesday," Barty referring to last year's Melbourne Park defeat at the same stage.

"It's been an incredible year for me, the last 12 months.

"It has been amazing. I'm just excited I get another opportunity in a quarter-final of a grand slam. You don't get those every week, so I'm really excited."

If Barty overcomes Kvitova, she would face either US 14th seed Sofia Kenin or unseeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur in the semi-finals.

No Australian woman has reached the last four at the Open since Wendy Turnbull in 1984.

Turnbull is the nation's most recent (1980) women's singles finalist.

Barty is bidding to become the first Australian - woman or man - to lift the home-nation grand slam singles crown since Pam O'Neil in 1978.


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