Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova was defeated by Australia's Ashleigh Barty in their fourth-round clash at the Australian Open in Melbourne, this year's first Grand Slam tournament that has $44.5 million in prize money up for grabs.
Melbourne: Australia's Ashleigh Barty believes a decision to take a break from tennis and play professional cricket revived her career, giving her the drive to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final in Melbourne this week. Coincidentally or not, her effectiveness in deciding sets has fallen since she stopped taking it, from a 76 per cent success rate beforehand to 52 per cent thereafter...
Fans and pundits were less than impressed by Sharapova's tactics, after she also flouted the shot clock in between serves. In on-court interviews and in her first formal news conference in Melbourne this week, she has displayed the unapologetic confidence of a player who has been here before. "She moves good. For me, it was not my day, not my good tennis, but credit to her, she played a good match".
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The world number 30, an Australian Open victor in 2008, was booed by the crowd Down Under for drawing out a toilet trip for seven minutes after her opponent had sewn up the second set and leveled the match at 1-1. She's not going to back down. "I know that I can match it with the best", said Barty, seeded 15.
"I gave myself opportunities to go 5-0 [up in the third set] and just couldn't execute". Collins had never beaten a top-five player before Kerber, and she'd never won a match at a major before the first round of this tournament. "I'll just come out and give it ago, playing freely".
In doing so, it went straight for the umpire's chair and took off the sun shield, which fell behind her between the two players' benches. Sharapova returned the favour and they were match point for the fourth time - and, fittingly, Barty sealed it with her sixth ace, right down the T. Sharapova also dismissed as "silly" a query on whether boos from the Australian crowd had contributed to her 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 loss to the hometown favourite Barty.
Reporter: I don't know. Mark Edmondson was the last Australian man to win the title, when he beat fellow Aussie and defending champion John Newcombe in 1976.
She found her game just in time to put Barty under pressure, with the Australian's nerves all too evident, and had two chances to level at 4-4, but Barty saved them both and kept it together to serve out the victory.
Alyssa Roenigk is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com whose assignments have taken her to six continents and caused her to commit countless acts of recklessness.
She'll next play two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who beat 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova 6-2, 6-1 to return to the Australian Open quarterfinals for the first time in seven years. I still, as I said, still have to take care of the shoulder.