The furthest Ashleigh Barty had reached in a Grand Slam prior to this tournament was the fourth round at the US Open in 2018Australian Open 2019Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 JanuaryCoverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and…
|Australian Open 2019|
|Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 January|
|Coverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and watch highlights on BBC TV and online.|
Ashleigh Barty will bid to become the first home female singles semi-finalist at the Australian Open for 35 years when she takes on Petra Kvitova in the last eight.
Barty hopes to make up for an “agonising” defeat by Kvitova in the final of the Sydney International.
The 15th seed knocked out Russian Maria Sharapova in the fourth round.
“It is exciting that I have another chance at Petra straightaway,” said Barty.
Czech eighth seed Kvitova edged a close final in Sydney earlier this month and Barty is relishing the chance of revenge.
“It is another challenge and an opportunity for me to play my best tennis,” added Barty.
“I lost an agonising final before, so I can come out and play freely.”
Barty claimed the biggest title of her career at the WTA Elite Trophy in November, while Kvitova is a two-time Grand Slam champion.
“I have given myself the opportunity to play in front of the best crowd in the world on one of the best courts in the world and in my home Slam,” Barty said. “There is absolutely nothing better.”
Chris O’Neil was the last female home winner in Australia in 1978, while Wendy Turnbull reached the semi-finals in 1984.
Kvitova, who won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014, has not gone beyond the quarter-finals in Melbourne since 2012.
She has only reached this stage of a Grand Slam once since she was stabbed in the hand by an intruder in her home in 2016.
“I’m kind of a different person. I do have a different mindset than I had those years when I won,” said Kvitova.
“I’m just here to enjoy the tennis. That’s really important not to be really stressed about it.
“It’s great to be in the quarter-finals, but I know how difficult it is to win a Grand Slam.”
I came back a better player – Barty
Barty took more than a year away from tennis to play professional cricket and she thinks this has helped to revive her career on the court.
The 22-year-old retired in 2014 and played for the Brisbane Heat in the women’s Big Bash after saying tennis was a “lonely sport”.
“There’s never a lonesome moment on the field if you’re struggling,” she said at the time. “There’s 10 other girls that can help you out and get you through the tough times.”
Barty returned to tennis in 2017 and enjoyed success, reaching the third round of the Australian Open for the first time.
She went on to reach the same stage in a further three Grand Slams before going on step further in last year’s US Open.
“I needed to take that time away,” said Barty. “For me, having that 18 months off was vital. I feel like I came back a better person on and off the court, a better tennis player.”
Who are the dark horses?
Two of this year’s women’s quarter-finalists are relatively unknown.
In arguably the biggest shock of the tournament, 25-year-old American Danielle Collins defeated second seed Angelique Kerber to record only her fourth win at a Grand Slam.
But despite failing to progress beyond the first round in any of the Slams, Collins believes she has what it takes to compete with the best.
“Let’s face it, I played [Caroline] Wozniacki in the first round at the French Open, [Elise] Mertens in the first round at Wimbledon and [Aryna] Sabalenka in the first round of the US Open.
“I lost to really good players. Everybody gets their shot at the pie. Right now I’m certainly getting mine.”
Collins, who has played much of her tennis in the US collegiate system, was a resounding underdog against three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber but breezed through to win 6-0 6-2 in just 56 minutes.
The world number 35 will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who beat 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in a mammoth fourth-round tie that went on until 01:53 local time.
Russian world number 44 Pavlyuchenkova won 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-3 and joked afterwards, “I’m happy I stayed awake.”
The 27-year-old has never reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam but did make it through to the last eight in Melbourne two years ago.
Women’s quarter-final draw:
S Williams (16) v Ka Pliskova (7)
N Osaka (4) v E Svitolina (6)
P Kvitova (8) v A Barty (15)
A Pavlyuchenkova v D Collins
Tiafoe targets Nadal shock
American Frances Tiafoe secured his place in the quarter-finals – and celebrated his 21st birthday – by beating Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov on Sunday.
He will face world number two and 17-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the final night session on the Rod Laver Arena.
Tiafoe said he had bought his mother a house in Maryland and had helped out his father to thank them for their role in his career.
“The beginning of my career I was trying to do everything for my family,” Tiafoe said.
“Obviously now I put them in a great place. Now I’m trying to do it for me.”
His opponent Nadal has yet to drop a set in the tournament and thrashed Czech Tomas Berdych to reach the last eight.
“Tiafoe has everything. He’s quick. He serves well,” Nadal, 32, said.
“He’s a very dynamic player, aggressive one. Of course, he’s dangerous.”
Men’s quarter-final draw:
N Djokovic (1) v K Nishikori (8)
M Raonic (16) v L Pouille (28)
R Bautista Agut (22) v S Tsitsipas (14)
F Tiafoe v R Nadal (2)