By Sudipto Ganguly
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – That Ash Barty carries a nation’s hopes of ending the long wait for a home champion into the Australian Open quarter-finals this week will make not one iota of difference to her preparations, the 22-year-old said on Sunday.
Barty became the first Australian woman in a decade to reach the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park when she rallied from a set down to beat former champion Maria Sharapova 4-6 6-1 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena.
With the challenge from Australian men’s singles players having fizzled out in the early hours of Sunday morning, Barty is the last player standing who could quench the nation’s thirst for a first home champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978.
“I think for me nothing changes,” Barty told reporters.
“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.
“For me, my processes and routines don’t change. I just go out there and prepare for another match. You know, if I can execute and do the right things, that’s a bonus.”
Barty’s victory over former world number one Sharapova was also a red letter day for indigenous Australian sport.
She is the first aboriginal player to make the last eight at the Australian Open since multiple Grand Slam champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley made the quarter-finals in 1981.
Barty, who played professional cricket before returning to tennis in 2016, is Tennis Australia’s indigenous ambassador and said she tried to be a good role model.
“It’s really nice accolades to get but when I’m out on the court I’m just trying to fight as hard as I can for every single point,” she said.
“(I) try and play the game in the right spirit, and play as hard as I can, play fairly and give it a crack.”
Barty will meet twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals after the eighth seed thrashed American teenager Amanda Anisimova 6-2 6-1 earlier in the day.
It will be a rematch of last Sunday’s Sydney International final, which the Australian lost in a final set tiebreak.
Asked what she had to do differently this time, Barty said: “Win a couple more important points, I suppose, yeah, compared to Sydney. It’s exciting that I get to have another chance at Petra straightaway.
“Not often does that happen where you get to kind of have a replay against the same opponent. Really exciting, but, yeah, really pumped to have another chance here.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by xx)