In the Australian Open quarterfinals, top-ranked Ash Barty built a major lead before her opponent took a medical timeout and left the court.
More than an hour later, Barty was suddenly headed for the exit, upset 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 Wednesday by the Czech Republic’s 25th-seeded Karolina Muchova.
At a Grand Slam tournament, Muchova won her first semifinal berth and ended Barty’s attempt to become the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neil in 1978 to win the title at home.
“Of course, it’s heartbreaking,” said Barty, who took off almost all of last year because of the pandemic of coronavirus, including deciding not to try to defend her 2019 French Open title. “But tomorrow the sun will come up. Either you win or you learn, and for me, today is a huge learning curve.
Thursday’s women’s semifinals will be the first matches with crowds at Melbourne Park in almost a week after the easing of restrictions imposed by the state government of Victoria during a five-day lockdown to control the spread of a COVID-19 cluster in Australia’s second-largest city.
Tournament director Craig Tiley said Wednesday that for each of the last four days of the tournament, attendance will be limited at 7,477, around half the size of Rod Laver Arena.
22nd-seeded Jennifer Brady, who defeated fellow American and good friend Jessica Pegula 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, will be Muchova’s opponent. Brady reached her second semifinal of the Grand Slam, after a run that far in the U.S. The September Open.
“I hope I’ll make it a habit,” said Brady. “I hope I’ve got a new habit of making the finals.”
At times, she stumbled and gave her racket an upset toss halfway through the second set. But the unseeded Pegula, who advanced for the first time in a major beyond the third round, seemed to fatigue down the stretch.
” We are such good friends,” said Brady. “I am genuinely pleased with her performance. I know we’re going to have a lot of tough fights here.
Daniil Medvedev defeated by a score of 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 Andrey Rublev, his friend and teammate in Russia’s ATP Cup-winning squad, and will take a 19-match winning streak to the semifinals against Rafael Nadal or Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“Never easy,” Medvedev said of playing with a friend. “But we’re all so competitive, I mean. You will see that nothing matters throughout the match. It is only important to win.
In four tour-level matches, the No. 4-seeded Medvedev has not lost a set to No. 7-seeded Rublev. That involves their U.S. meeting. Last year’s Open Quarterfinals.
After the match, Medvedev called for the trainer to rub his left thigh as he sat before a TV interview in a court chair.
“I’ve begun to cramp. I realised he was still cramping,’ said Medvedev. “I fully locked it at the end.”
For the third time, Medvedev is in the semifinals of a major and is one of two Russians in the Melbourne Park semifinals. He joins 114th-placed Aslan Karatsev, a major’s main draw qualifier for the first time, who plays top-placed Novak Djokovic in the final for a berth.
At the start of her second major quarterfinal, Muchova played badly, and Barty raced to a 5-0 lead while losing only six points. Muchova had one winner and 18 unforced errors after nine games.
She took a medical timeout early in the second set that lasted almost 10 minutes, which players are permitted to do if it is determined that they have a problem that goes beyond cramps.
A factor, Muchova said, was the sunny weather, with the temperature in the mid-80s (30 degrees Celsius).
“I think it was a little bit hot,” she said. “It came to me, and I felt a little dizzy, very confused, almost fainting. I’ve only only asked for support.
Before she left the court, medical staff took her temperature, tested her blood pressure and gave her ice. She played much better when Muchova returned.
“I’ve been trying to play rallies a bit faster so we don’t play long ones like in the first set,” she said, “and it worked well.”
There were no complaints from Barty about Muchova stopping the match.
Barty said, “It is within the rules.” Within her rights to take the time, she is. That’s not supposed to be a big turning point in a match. I am sad that I have let this be a turning point.
Comebacks were a staple for Muchova in the tournament, who rallied to win sets after trailing 5-0 and 4-0 in earlier matches.
Against Barty, she started heading into the court to hit her earlier groundstrokes. Barty became indecisive and unpredictable, forced behind the baseline.
Muchova won eight of nine games during one stretch. In the final two sets, Barty finished with 37 unforced errors and lost serve four times.
“I just overplayed,” said Barty. “At some pretty critical times, I just pressed a little bit too much, and gave up too many cheap errors.”
Before the Australian Open, Brady was in a two-week lockdown because she was among the players who shared a charter flight to Australia with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.
Some freedom of movement in Australia was the tradeoff for that initially.
Crowds of up to 30,000 a day, about 50 percent of what is currently seen at the game, were permitted into Melbourne Park, but before the lockout was enforced, the daily attendance never topped 22,500.
This was the first Grand Slam tournament to encourage thousands of individuals to sit in the stands since the Australian Open last year.
Wimbledon has been cancelled, and the U.S. Fans were absolutely banned from the Open, and the French Open allowed around 1,000 spectators a day.