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Australian Open 2019: Ashleigh Barty fired up for Kvitova re-match

Barty, 22, entered this year’s tournament as 15th seed but carries massive pressure from an Australian public desperate for Grand Slam success after becoming the first local to make the last eight in a decade.

tennis Updated: Jan 21, 2019 15:22 IST
AFP
AFP
Melbourne
Australia's Ashleigh Barty reacts while playing against Russia's Maria Sharapova during their women's singles match on day seven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 20, 2019
Australia's Ashleigh Barty reacts while playing against Russia's Maria Sharapova during their women's singles match on day seven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 20, 2019(AFP)
         

Hometown hope Ashleigh Barty faces a tough battle against Czech veteran Petra Kvitova for a spot in the Australian Open semi-finals Tuesday but will have the entire host nation cheering her on.

The other contest for a final four berth pits the unseeded pairing of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Danielle Collins against one another, with both players seeking Grand Slam breakthroughs.

Barty, 22, entered this year’s tournament as 15th seed but carries massive pressure from an Australian public desperate for Grand Slam success after becoming the first local to make the last eight in a decade.

She has already downed five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova and is on a red-hot run of form, winning seven of her eight matches this year.

But against the eighth-seeded Kvitova, Barty is up against one of the few players on tour who can boast a richer vein of 2019 form.

Kvitova has won all nine of her matches this year, including a three-set win over Barty in the final of the Sydney International warm-up tournament.

“Win a couple more important points, I suppose, compared to Sydney,” said Barty on how to get past Kvitova this time.

“It’s exciting that I get to have another chance at Petra straightaway. Not often does that happen where you get to kind of have a replay against the same opponent. Really pumped.”

With two Wimbledon titles in her trophy cabinet, the 28-year-old Kvitova has experience going deep into Grand Slams, while Barty’s run to the Melbourne quarters is the furthest she has gone at a major.

Throw in the fact that Kvitova has a 3-0 record against Barty and the task facing the Australian looks imposing.

But Barty, whose best showing at a major is the US Open fourth round last year, has welcomed the pressure, saying this year’s career plan was always to “go deep into Slams”.

“I feel like that was the next step for me,” she said.

Russia’s Pavlyuchenkova, the world number 44, is a player who has been threatening to reach the next level for several years but still remains on the fringes of success at the majors.

The 27-year-old’s match against Collins is her second appearance in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park and her fourth overall at Grand Slams.

She is yet to progress further but showed admirable resilience to fight back after dropping a set to US fifth seed Sloane Stephens in a third-round match that was held in the middle of the night due to a scheduling logjam.

Her opponent was a largely unknown quality after playing much of her tennis on the US college circuit, but grabbed the tennis world’s attention with a 6-0, 6-2 drubbing of second seed Angelique Kerber in the fourth round.

World number 35 Collins had never won a match at a Grand Slam in five previous attempts before arriving in Melbourne and putting three seeds to the sword on the way to the fourth round.

She describes herself as fearless and can be expected to adopt aggressive tactics against the Russian.

“I may not have won a Grand Slam match before this, but I gotta tell you, I think it’s going to keep happening,” she said. “I hope to have many more of these.”

First Published: Jan 21, 2019 15:22 IST

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