Relegated to No.2 Court for the second time during these Championships, Ashleigh Barty’s Wimbledon dream came to end after being defeated, 3-6 6-2 6-3 in an hour and 37 minutes, by unseeded American Alison Riske in the 4th round.
I've been ready to battle every day that I go out there and that's really shown in all my matches Alison Riske
“I’m so excited. I’m so proud of myself for the way I handled today’s match and all previous matches,” Riske told the BBC afterwards.
“I’ve been ready to battle every day that I go out there and that’s really shown in all my matches.”
The World No 1 took the first set and looked on course for another comfortable straight sets victory, when Riske fought back to shatter any hopes of the Australian winning a 2nd major title on the trot.
The winning streak had to come to an end, sometime, for Barty, and it proved a surprise result to all as the Roland-Garros champion, who was utterly dominant in the first week, came up short on Manic Monday, closing out her 15-match winning run.
World No 55 Riske has never gone beyond the 3rd round at Wimbledon before, and the American had spent almost 5 hours more than her rival on court, making her battle-hardened.
It all started so promisingly, even perfectly, for the likeable Aussie – Ace, ace, ace, ace – and an opening first-game signal of intent, which did not hint at the battle to come.
A Riske backhand error handed Barty the important break and the first set was nicely in the bag.
Looking at the rankings, that should have indicated a routine win, but Riske showed her fighting spirit as Barty’s first serve began to wobble.
While her serve is one of her biggest weapons, it also proved to be her Achilles heel, as she increasingly struggled to land her first delivery.
In the second set her first-serve percentage was down at 40 and she paid the price, with Riske’s flat yet precise ground strokes causing Barty all sorts of problems.
For the first time, the 23-year-old Aussie looked a little flustered, and she had to save 2 break points to hold for 3-3 in the decider.
The pressure told in her next service game, though, as Riske sent yet another winner down the line to break, and a final backhand wide from Barty brought the curtain down on her campaign.
As Barty became more erratic, Riske had kept it simple and efficient, finishing the job in what was a major shock and putting the unseeded American into her first career Wimbledon quarter-final.
The tireless Riske came into her Court No 2 clash with Barty armed with a steely determination, having had to negotiate 3 consecutive 3-set matches and having to come back from a set down in 2 of them, knocking out Donna Vekic and Belinda Bencic in her giant-killing run.
She pulled it off against Barty once again, firing 30 winners and 2 aces en route to her first ever win against a World No 1 and booking her spot in the last 8.
“I couldn’t begin to say what it means to me,” Riske said. “To have overcome the matches the way I have is what I’m most excited about. Getting to the quarter-finals is amazing but what’s most exciting for me is the way I’ve been fighting.
“I haven’t been starting out fantastic in all my matches. I had confidence that if I could keep my service game I could get looks on her serve.
“The grass definitely brings out the best in me. Hopefully it will rub off and happen in other places too. I think my game is just well-suited to it.
“I love being at Wimbledon. Today I told my fiancé, ‘I don’t want Wimbledon to end’,” she added.
Riske stopped all kinds of history since Barty had been attempting to become only the 3rd woman since 1985 – the others being Steffi Graf and Serena Williams – to achieve the Roland-Garros-Wimbledon double in the same season.
She was also trying to become the first Australian since Evonne Goolagong-Cawley in 1980 to win Wimbledon.
The American awaits the winner between former champion Serena Williams and No 30 seed Carla Suarez Navarro as she seeks a spot on the semi-finals.
Refreshingly, Barty laughed her way through her media obligations, refusing to criticise the scheduling or to be drawn by any offered bait and finding all the positives of her amazing run to World No 1.
“Scheduling is out of my control. I’ll play on any court I’m scheduled on,” she said.
“I think obviously scheduling is very difficult. There are so many incredible matches all the fans and all the people want to watch, and players want to be a part of.
“For us, the tennis court is the same size. The surroundings change, yes. They’re a little bit different. No matter what court you’re scheduled on, it shouldn’t matter how you approach the match or play. It certainly doesn’t for me.
“Court 2 is a beautiful court here. We played on that court earlier in the rounds and for a doubles match, as well. It’s a beautiful court. I enjoyed my time out there.”
Asked to sum up her feelings about the match, Barty did admit: “Tough one. I think I started well. I was sticking to how I wanted to play. Then in the second set, I think my serve let me down. I let Alison get back into the match too many times, having looks at second serves.
“Overall I didn’t play a poor match. When I needed to, when the big moments were there, Alison played better today. Tough one to swallow but I lost to a better player.”
While there was downside, Barty smiled: “Today, it’s disappointing right now. Give me an hour or so, we’ll be all good. The sun’s still going to come up tomorrow! There might be a beer or two. We’ll have to wait and see [laughter].”
As for future plans, she said: “Rest and recover. I think it’s also important to really celebrate what we’ve been able to achieve over the last eight weeks. It’s been an extremely positive time for me and my team.
“Go and rest and recover with the family back home, then switch focus back to the hard courts.
“In the US, which I love that time of year, I love getting back over to the summertime there. I have some really good memories from last year. We go back, we knuckle down, train again, then we go again.”
Meanwhile, out on No 3 Court, the 8th-seeded Elina Svitolina was the first to advance into the 2019 Wimbledon quarter-finals on Manic Monday, outlasting Roland Garros quarter-finalist Petra Martic, 6-4 6-2.
The former World No 3 navigated through a tricky opening set as her rival was eventually overcome injury to reach her first quarter-final at the All England Club after an hour and 49 minutes.
Svitolina had won her last 3 encounters with Martic, although their last meeting at a major was extremely close as the then-resurgent Croatian led 5-2 in the 3rd set at the 2017 French Open before the Ukranian rallied to win the final 5 games.
Martic has gone from strength to strength since then, winning her first career WTA title earlier this season at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup, and reaching her first Grand Slam quarter-final in Paris 3 weeks ago.
Playing the second week of Wimbledon for the second time in three years, Martic gave Svitolina all she could handle in the first set, pushing the 2-time Rome champion through long and gruelling games that culminated in a 9-deuce epic at 3-3.
Though Martic held serve after saving 3 break points over the 15-minute marathon, it was Svitolina who ultimately emerged with the momentum, winning 7 straight games to surge ahead by a set and 2 breaks as the Croat took a medical time out early in the second set.
The No 24 seed kept battling, stopping the run of games against her with a strong service hold, but Svitolina was undaunted, securing victory with a hold at love.
In all, she struck an impressive 30 winners to just 17 unforced errors while winning 82% of points behind her first serve.
Martic hit 34 winners of her own but decidedly lost her edge after the opening set, ending the match with 31 unforced errors.
Up next for the Ukrainian will be the winner of an all-Czech clash between former World No 1 Karolina Pliskova and rising young star Karolina Muchova, who play later today.
Elsewhere, Zhang Shuai downed teenager Dayana Yastremska to reach her 2nd career Grand Slam quarter-final.
The 30-year-old veteran Chinese, the World No 50, edged out the 19-year old on Wimbledon’s Manic Monday, 6-4 1-6 6-2.
It will be Zhang’s first appearance in the last 8 of a Grand Slam since a stunning run to the quarters at the 2016 Australian Open, where she qualified and upset Simona Halep en route to her best-ever Grand Slam result.
Another major meeting with Halep could be on the cards for Zhang in this quarter-final, as she will next face either the No 7 seed or American teenage sensation Coco Gauff.
After winning a tight opener, Zhang did well to curtail a surging Yastremska in the decider, as she never allowed the Ukrainian to hold serve in the final set.
The Chinese saved 2 break points in the first game of the final set, which would have seen Yastremska win a 7th game in the last 8 played, but ultimately held on and never trailed in the decider.
Zhang had never won a match at Wimbledon in 5 career main draw appearances prior to this fortnight, but has scored wins over 3 players ranked ahead of her, and two seeds, in No 14 seed Caroline Wozniacki and No 23 seed Caroline Garcia – so far.