After beating compatriot Ajla Tomljanovic on Centre Court on Tuesday, World No Ash Barty admitted she is dreaming of winning Wimbledon but has the daunting task of first getting past Angelique Kerber, who won the title in 2018, on Thursday.
Today I was able to use my weapons a little bit better and just bring the ball back into my patterns a bit more regularly. I certainly wasn't as loose as I have been with errors and kind of ill-timed lapses, I suppose. But I felt really sharp today. I felt like I knew I needed to bring that level in order to match it with Ajla. Ash Barty
Playing her first major quarter-final, Barty was near her best, calm and controlled, with her unreadable forehand giving her the upper hand in the battle of the Australians, which she won 6-1 6-3 in 66 minutes.
It was the first all-Australian Grand Slam quarter-final since Evonne Goolagong Cawley defeated Wendy Turnbull at Wimbledon 1980, and the result extended Barty’s winning streak against her compatriots to 6, while she has not been defeated by a fellow Australian since falling to Daria Gavrilova in the 2017 Strasbourg quarter-finals.
“This is a dream come true – it genuinely is,” Barty said. “I know you hear that a lot from athletes but this is my dream and I’m extremely grateful that I’ve got an opportunity to come out here, and have fun, and live out what I work so hard to do.
“And I’m loving every minute – and this afternoon was no different.
“Ajla is an incredible competitor. I had to play my absolute best to be able to compete with her.
“She’s had an incredible fortnight and I think all Aussies back home are bloody proud of her and it’s really nice to share the court with her today.”
The two had never played each other before, but they have practised many times together as teammates in the Billie Jean King Cup, and they will be again in two and a half weeks’ time when they go to the Olympics in Tokyo.
They know each other very well and every detail of the other’s game, but it was Barty who romped out to a 4-1 lead with two breaks of serve safely in the bank and after 24 minutes, the top seed sliced her way to taking the first set.
Tomljanovic is no wilting flower, who in 2016 needed shoulder surgery and was out for more than 12 months, and so serious was the operation that she had to sleep sitting upright for 2 months before she was finally allowed to lie down in her bed.
She was prepared to do whatever it took to rescue her career and, since February 2017, she has been inching her way back.
This year at Wimbledon has been her breakthrough but she was soundly stopped by Barty.
From 0-1 down, Barty swept through 6 games on the trot for the loss of just 7 points to take the first set despite landing only 25% of her first serves, although beyond that, the World No 1’s form off the ground was sumptuous.
“Obviously it was something that I wanted to do is to start well,” Barty said. “But also not making a massive, massive emphasis on the start, allowing myself to not panic if things didn’t start overly well.
“It was just working my way in, like we always do, not putting any more emphasis on any point or any situation. It just kind of is what it is. Each and every one, I just wanted to try and play as I could with as much clarity and freedom as I could.”
Barty fixed her first serve percentage in the second set, raising it to 73%.
Unfortunately, much of the rest of her game dipped and twice, she coughed up a pair of double-faults in one service game, and her marvellous forehand winners were beginning to alternate with cheap errors off both wings.
Tomljanovic broke serve in the opening game of the second set, and put up a better fight against the top seed, but Barty changed gears, broke for 3-1 and put her foot down to accelerate towards the semi-final and an appointment with Kerber.
Unable to take advantage until it was too late, Tomljanovic trailie 6-1, 4-1 as the World No 75 found only one winner, a volley in the first game of the match, to 17 unforced errors.
“Today I was able to use my weapons a little bit better and just bring the ball back into my patterns a bit more regularly,” Barty said. “I certainly wasn’t as loose as I have been with errors and kind of ill-timed lapses, I suppose. But I felt really sharp today. I felt like I knew I needed to bring that level in order to match it with Ajla.”
Barty bettered her best result in SW19 until now, reaching the 4th round 2 years ago, and only Kerber now lies in her path to the final.
“This is my dream,” Barty said. “I’m in an extremely fortunate position that I’m getting to do what I love, getting to do what I dreamt as a kid. So I think I’ve just got a whole lot of gratitude for the fact that I get to come out here and do what I love.
“The world, the way we’re living at the moment, I think it’s incredible that we’re able to play, compete, have people enjoy it with us. So I’m certainly enjoying every single minute that I get out on those courts.”
Barty is one of the most down to earth and straight forward international superstars in the world, who sticks to her routines and maintains her humility.
“I think I’m extremely lucky to get a lot of support all around the world,” she said. “As Australian tennis players, we’re in one of the few countries that are a Grand Slam nation.
“Without a doubt it adds to the excitement, it adds to the calendar that we do have a tournament in our own backyard.
“For me it’s not a fact of liking it, disliking it, being overwhelmed. It makes it fun. It’s enjoyable. To have people enjoying the tennis with me, with us on the court, makes it all the more fun because I think there are memories on tennis courts.
“Some are heart-breaking and some you never forget.”
She has played Kerber 4 times before and they have two wins apiece, but all those matches were on a hard court and grass is a different challenge and one that the German is more familiar with.
“It adds to the challenge,” Barty said. “Angie obviously has an incredible record here. She’s made multiple finals. She’s one of the best grass courters going around.
“I think the challenge of playing her in a semi-final of Wimbledon is an incredible opportunity, one that I’m really excited for.
“It’s not scary or overwhelming, it’s just exciting. It’s exciting to have the challenge of playing someone who is comfortable on these courts, who knows how to win this tournament.”
As for the game-plan, Barty is keeping that to herself.
“I think we’re very different players,” she said. “Everyone is obviously their own unique player. Tactically they manoeuvre their way around the court differently.
“But I think I like to try and use my variety as best I can. I like to use my weapons when I can.
“I know one of Angie’s greatest assets is the fact that she can run, and hunt, and put the ball in an awkward situation to nullify my aggression and, kind of, my weapons at times. It’s a really fine balance.”
Barty will lose herself in a book within her Wimbledon bubble ahead of Thursday’s encounter, knowing that she has moved one step closer to making her dream come true.