MELBOURNE, Australia — It was like a party at Rod Laver Arena. A partisan crowd backed Ash Barty, booed Maria Sharapova and celebrated when the first Australian woman in a decade reached the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.
Rod Laver was there watching, among the tennis greats. Prime Minister Scott Morrison in his green Aussie cap was cheering. It was in vogue for Aussies to watch. Anna Wintour, too.
It took four match points and 2 hours, 22 minutes before Barty fended off 2008 champion Sharapova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, reaching the quarterfinals of a major for the first time. She’s the first Australian woman since Jelena Dokic to reach the last eight at the home Grand Slam tournament. No Aussie woman has won it in 41 years.
She’ll next play two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who dismantled 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova 6-2, 6-1 in 59 minutes to return to the Australian Open quarterfinals for the first time in seven years.
Danielle Collins upset three-time major winner Angelique Kerber 6-0, 6-2. Collins hadn’t won a match at a Grand Slam before coming to Australia — now she’s in the quarterfinals.
Sharapova won the first set but was struggling with her serve, and finished with 10 double-faults in the match. After dropping the second set — midway through Barty’s nine-game winning streak — Sharapova took an extended break in the locker room and was booed when she came back. That’s a rarity for the five-time Grand Slam winner in these parts.
Sharapova nearly delivered a comeback — recovering from 4-0 down in the deciding set, forcing Barty to serve it out, and saving three match points.
Two seasons back from a break to pursue a career in cricket, Barty is Australia’s best chance of producing a local champion since 1978 (Chris O’Neil).
Her immediate concern, though, is getting past Kvitova, who beat her in last week’s final of the Sydney International.
Kvitova wanted no part of another loss to Anisimova, who beat her last year at Indian Wells and was the youngest American since Jennifer Capriati in 1993 to make it this far at Melbourne Park, so she went on the attack early, breaking in the first game.
In men’s action, Frances Tiafoe celebrated his 21st birthday with a spot in his first major quarterfinal, beating No. 20-seeded Grigor Dmitrov 7-5 7-6 (6), 6-7 (1), 7-5. The American took off his shirt, flexed his right bicep and waved to the crowd on Melbourne Arena, clearly enjoying his milestone victory.
After beating the likes of No. 5 Kevin Anderson and Dmitrov, Tiafoe will player face second-seeded Rafael Nadal (a 6-0, 6-1, 7-6 winner over Tomas Berdych) in the last eight.
Six-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer was to face 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas later Saturday.
John Pye is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/An-Australian-party-for-Barty-who-ll-meet-13547660.php.