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Melbourne | Barty’s Riske management

Melbourne | Barty’s Riske management

World No 1 Ashleigh Barty gave her home crowd something to cheer about on Australia day by beating Alison Riske in three sets to reach Open quarter-final where she will meet Petra Kvitova.

 

It was third time a charm for me tonight. I just had to hang in there. It was very tough from both ends playing very differently. I just had to give myself a chance. Ash Barty

Barty toughed out a 3-setter against the American, eventually overcoming the 18th seed, 6-3 1-6 6-4, to reverse the result of their clash at the same stage of Wimbledon last year.

“It was third time a charm for me tonight,” said an elated Barty.

“I just had to hang in there. It was very tough from both ends playing very differently. I just had to give myself a chance.”

The two had met twice before, with Riske coming out on top in both, but the No 1 seed held her nerve in Melbourne to create a change in fortunes and reach the last 16 for the second year running.

The 23 year-old came out all guns blazing and soon found herself 3-0 up, taking advantage of errors across the American’s game before the 29-year-old appeared to wake up and earned herself a break back to bring the score to 4-2.

Unperturbed, Barty held her cool and maintained a strong 61% first serve percentage, closing out the first set at the first chance.

Riske was not disheartened as she stormed out of the blocks in the second set, taking advantage of a dip in the Aussie’s level to win the set 6-1 and take the match into a decider.

The home favourite shook off the cobwebs and soon broke the American to take a 3-1 lead.

Errors began to creep back in to Barty’s game, though, and the pair were soon level-pegging at 4-4 before a brace of inside-out forehands and backhand winners took the Australian to 5-4.

Riske, usually so cool under pressure, lost her nerve in the final game, serving a double fault at 30-40 to gift the Aussie the match.

Barty is fast becoming a national treasure having recently been named Australian Young Athlete of the Year and managed a wry smile as she looked ahead to a tough contest against Kvitova.

“I love Petra, but let’s hope she doesn’t break my heart again on Tuesday,” declared the reigning Roland Garros champion.

“It’s been an incredible year for me the past 12 months. It’s been amazing.

“I’m just really excited to get another opportunity in a quarter-final of a Grand Slam, you don’t get those every week, so I’m really excited.”

Kvitova came through in three sets against Greece’s Maria Sakkari, 6-7(4) 6-3 6-2 after 2 hours and 12 minutes.

Last year the Czech dismissed Barty 6-1 6-4 at Rod Laver Arena but, since then, the Australian has prevailed past her in three consecutive matches.

At the start of the night match on Rod Laver Arena, Barty dealt easily with the challenging whirlpool winds on court, and chopping a backhand slice and dinking a delicate drop shot highlighted a confident 3-0 start from the Queenslander.

Riske rallied, and a stunning backhand stop volley received a nod of approval from Barty as the American erased the break.

The backhand slice was still a menace for the American to deal with, and Barty wrestled back the initiative with a bullet forehand down the line.

A couple of comfortable holds later, the World No 1 headed for the sit-down a set up.

Riske had overturned a set deficit at Wimbledon, and ignited a similar comeback on Sunday night.

The 29-year-old pressured Barty into a loose volley at the net to chalk up the break, and within 10 minutes launched 3-0 ahead.

Riske’s resilience was constricting Barty’s versatility, and in a flash a decider was on order.

The top seed wiped the slate clear, cutting down the unforced errors.

A cracking forehand cross-court winner skimmed the inside tramline, and a couple of aces enabled Barty to post 2 straightforward holds.

Pinging the ball from corner to corner, Barty eventually wore down Riske’s resistance for a brace of break points.

The top seed snuck to the net and struck a textbook volley for the pivotal 3-1 advantage but Riske, seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time, was undeterred and attacked on return to nudge Barty’s striking zone off balance.

It worked, and the Melbourne crowd became concerned when the American tied the scoreline four apiece.

Another arrowed forehand pass sparked the telling break, with a Riske double fault sending Barty into the final 8 on Australia Day.

“I just had to hang in there and try and give myself a chance,” she reiterated.

For Barty, the one-hour, 36-minute victory keeps her hopes of becoming the first Australian women’s champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978 alive.

The fact that the draw has opened up nicely for Barty, with reigning champion Naomi Osaka, record-chasing Serena Williams and second seed Karolina Pliskova all going out in round 3, giving hope to her legion of fans.






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