The match turned against Ash Barty in the second set. Then, midway through the third, the tennis gods abandoned her.
Ash Barty’s quarter-final turned on a medical time-out in the second set but her fate was sealed in the seventh game of the decider, when the tennis gods abandoned her in cruel fashion.
Serving at 2-4 down and poised at 30/30, Barty’s Australian Open flashed before her eyes as she drove a rally ball from the baseline and it struck the net cord.
Time seemed to stand still as the ball, hit flat off Barty’s backhand, lobbed up in the air before hitting the net cord again on the way down and deflecting on to Barty’s side, handing Karolina Muchova a point for a double break.
“Oh man, denied by the net on the second bounce on the tape,” Jim Courier said in commentary for Nine.
“And this is a vital, vital opportunity for Muchova and it feels like a must-win point for Barty.”
“It did everything but go over,” added Sam Smith.
Having started the match so powerfully she was described by Courier as “a runaway train”, Barty cut a frustrated figure for much of the second and third sets as she watched what seemed a certain semi-final appearance go up in smoke.
However, with Muchova inexperienced at closing out a Grand Slam quarter final, there was a sense that Barty could still dig herself out by getting enough balls into play as the talented Czech approached the finish line.
That hope seemed to dry up following the cruel let cord that gave Muchova 30/40, with the world No.27 buoyed by Lady Luck and Barty flattened.
Muchova converted her advantage into a second break, turning Barty’s uphill climb into Mount Everest.
To Muchova’s credit she went on to close out the match the next game, even as Barty scrapped hard to earn a break point as she attempted to extend the match.
After the match Barty admitted she had lost some of her trademark control as the match slipped away from her in the second and third sets.
“Yeah, I felt like I lost control of the ball a little bit. At times I was overplaying, missing quite a few long and wide,” she said.
“Then at times tried to rein it in a little bit too much and overcompensated. I think there was a little bit of a battle of trying to figure out a way to bring my range back in, try not to press too much.
“I felt like I lost my way with overplaying, overpressing, not letting myself work into the points and really construct points as well as I’d like to.”
While Barty was unable to get her game back on track, the calm of Muchova, who was unflappable in the biggest moments of the match, was a significant contrast.
“Yeah, I think I’m just trying to be really calm, yeah, to kind of not think about previous mistakes and all of it,” Muchova said of her demeanor in her press conference.
‘I’m definitely working on my kind of mental side in this way. Yeah, as well, I think it’s a bit of my character.
“I’m kind of easygoing, I would say. On the court I’m just trying to keep focused and, yeah, to be like chill.”
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