Ashleigh Barty’s dreams of home Grand Slam ended by Karolina Muchova in Melbourne
Karolina Muchova stunned world No 1 Ashleigh Barty with a sensational comeback to reach the Australian Open semi-finals following a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 win.
The 25th seed looked out of sorts in a first set which last only 24 minutes and at this stage it seemed a the home favourite sealing her place in the last four was a formality.
A medical time-out proved the catalyst for Czech to wrestle back some momentum and, after she levelled, it was Barty who lost her radar and a catalogue of unforced errors saw hopes of a maiden Australian Open victory ended.
For Muchova her remarkable tournament continues with Karolina Pliskova and Elise Mertens already dispatched but this victory tops the lot and seals a first ever appearance at the last four of a grand slam.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 17, 2021
In her on-court interview, the 24-year-old semi-finalist said: “I started to feel a bit lost at the end of the first set.
“My head was spinning so I took a break and it helped me. I tried to get back and play a bit faster and it worked well.
“They checked my pressure, I was a bit lost and spinning. They cooled me down with ice and it helped me.”
Barty had got the better of the Czech in their previous meeting at the US Open in 2018 and signalled her intentions with a break in her opponent’s first game in temperatures of 25 degrees in Melbourne.
Muchova could not find her range and a string of wayward shots were followed by a double fault to put her on the verge of a bagel following 16 minutes of play at the Rod Laver Arena.
It was avoided but Barty secured a routine first set by a 6-1 scoreline before the tide turned in unexpected fashion following a medical time-out.
The world No 27, in only her second ever grand slam quarter-final, went off for a long period after a rare winner and when she returned it was now her Australian opponent who could not land any shots.
Five of the next six games in the set went the way of Muchova to level proceedings with Barty hitting 18 unforced errors in the second set despite a number of lengthy rallies now being produced.
Momentum was firmly with the underdog and another break at the start of the decider increased the pressure on the home favourite, who was seeing hopes of becoming the first Aussie woman since Wendy Turnbull in 1980 to reach the Australian Open Final fade fast.
With the crowd due to return on Thursday, Barty had to find support from within and yet let another game slip despite nerves getting the better of the pair with the finish line in sight.
Serving for the match, Muchova sealed her passage into the semi-finals with an ace to claim one of the best victories of her career to join Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams in the last four.
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