Australian Open: Ash Barty, world No. 1, stunned in quarterfinals

Ash Barty Australian Open
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Top-ranked Ash Barty was upset in the Australian Open quarterfinals by 25th seed Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic.

Muchova prevailed 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 over the Australian to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal on Thursday.

She gets No. 22 Jennifer Brady, who beat 61st-ranked Jessica Pegula 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in an all-American quarterfinal. Brady, one of the 72 players unable to leave her hotel room for two weeks last month as part of a hard lockdown, also reached the final four of last year’s U.S. Open.

“I would say I didn’t really have high expectations on myself to do well,” Brady said, noting the two-week break before her Australian Open tune-up event in Melbourne did give her a chance to reset after playing non-stop since June. “Mentally I was feeling a little bit fried [before the quarantine], to be honest.”

Barty’s defeat means that the winner of Thursday’s other semifinal between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams (10 p.m. ET Wednesday in the U.S.) will likely be a significant favorite to win the tournament.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

Barty, 24, was bidding to become the first Australian singles player to reach the final in Melbourne since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005 and the first to win since Chris O’Neil in 1978. She lost in the semifinals last year to eventual champion Sofia Kenin.

Barty, the 2019 French Open champion, has held her No. 1 ranking through the pandemic despite going more than a year between matches. She won her first 11 sets at this event, through the first set against Muchova.

Muchova was dreadful in that 24-minute first set — one winner to 13 unforced errors. Muchova took an early second-set medical timeout, then won seven of the next eight games while Barty crumbled.

“I was a bit lost on the court, and my head was spinning, so I took a break,” said Muchova, adding that she was cooled down with ice off the court during the nine-minute break.

Barty said what Muchova did was within the rules.

“She’s within her rights to take that time,” she said. “If she wasn’t within the rules, the physios and the doctors would have said so.

“It’s not my place to comment here whether she had an injury or not. That’s the physios and the doctors.”

Barty played without what would have been overwhelming Rod Laver Arena crowd support. The ban on fans due to the area’s five-day coronavirus lockdown ends on Thursday.

“I was disappointed that I let that [medical timeout] become a turning point,” she said. “I’m experienced enough now to be able to deal with that.”

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