Barty staying cool as Open hype grows

Home hope Ashleigh Barty after surging into her maiden grand slam quarter-final in Melbourne.
Home hope Ashleigh Barty after surging into her maiden grand slam quarter-final in Melbourne.

Ashleigh Barty is vowing to "stay in the moment" as the hype builds after the 22-year-old's first-time foray to a grand slam quarter-final at Melbourne Park.

Barty is within three tantalising wins of becoming Australia's first Open singles champion in 41 years after staging a stirring fightback to beat Maria Sharapova in a drama-charged fourth-round encounter on Sunday.

Barty overcame a nervy, error-riddled first set to defeat the five-times major champion and former world No.1 4-6 6-1 6-4 in a rousing performance at Rod Laver Arena.

She prevailed after two hours and 22 minutes amid unbearable tension, having blown a 4-0 lead in the deciding set.

Barty finally sealed victory on her fourth match point with a huge ace down the middle.

"Yeah, it was a little bit close, wasn't it?' the relieved Queenslander said.

"I gave myself an opportunity in the third set in a lot of of games and couldn't take it.

"I had to take a deep breath and trust the work that I have done with my team. Go up and hit my spots and whatever happens, happens.

"She's an absolute champion. She was never going to go away."

Australia's first women's quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park since Jelena Dokic a decade ago, the 15th-seeded Barty will play Czech world No.6 and dual Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on Tuesday for a spot in the semi-finals.

Kvitova beat Barty in a third-set tiebreaker in the final of the Sydney International eight days ago.

"It doesn't get any easier at all," Barty said.

"It's just another challenge and another opportunity for me to come out and try to play my best tennis.

"I have come agonisingly close against Petra before so I can come out and Tuesday, play a fun, free brand of tennis and see how we go.

"I know that I can match it with the best and when I execute I know I can."

Sharapova had ended Caroline Wozniacki's title defence in the third round on Tuesday, but bowed to Barty's "brilliant tennis" and hailed the home hope as a legitimate title contender.

"For me, nothing changes," Barty said.

"We go through the exact same processes and same routines I would go through whether it's a first round or quarter-final.

"It's exciting. No doubt about that. But I try not to look too much into it.

"I get to embrace and enjoy the fact I'm playing in Australia and get to extend my summer a little bit longer and play in front of the best crowds in the world and really try and enjoy it."

Already assured of a new career-high ranking of No.12 in the world, Barty will crack the top 10 if she topples Kvitova to set up a semi-final against either little-known Danielle Collins, fifth-seeded fellow American Sloane Stephens or Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Australian Associated Press