Home favorite Ashleigh Barty met Czech professional Karolina Muchova in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open 2021. Following three sets of scintillating tennis at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne Park, it was the Australian who slipped up, losing a 6-1, 2-0 lead to lose the match 6-1, 3-6, 2-6.
Coming into the match, both players carried a straight-sets win on their shoulders. While the Australian had defeated the unseeded Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-4, Muchova had outlasted the 18th seed Elise Mertens 7-6 (5), 7-5.
Ashleigh Barty dominates the first set
Continuing with her momentum from her previous matches, last year’s semifinalist begun the match with a classical flair. With forehand winners and slice shots, Ashleigh got the first breakthrough in the match.
Across the net, the 25th seed of the tournament did not look in a good shape compared to her previous matches. Muchova hit too many unforced errors and gave away an easy lead to her opponent.
This helped Barty tighten her grip on the match, and she took control in the first five games of the match. In the end, the Czech professional managed to win a game but lost the set 6-1.
Without a doubt, the Australian World No. 1 played with finesse and applied her techniques efficiently. At this point, she looked like a clear winner.
Muchova claws her way back as Barty scrambles
The Australian did not hesitate to continue from where she had left off in the first set. With 2-0 up in the second set, it all seemed too easy for Barty.
In an attempt to throw her opponent off her rhythm, the Czech professional went for the towel amid the breakpoint. She was looking uneasy; however, Barty was left unhappy as she was ready to serve.
Taking a medical timeout, Muchova left the court, which proved to be a turning point in the match, disturbing the Australian’s rhythm. Muchova made her way back onto the court and into the match as well. A renewed player had come to face Barty.
Striking clean forehands and dropping unreturnable shots, the 24-year-old Czech broke Barty’s serve. Without a doubt, the break set the Australian off her rhythm, and she struggled to regain it following that.
Subsequently, Muchova won the second set 3-6 and leveled the match. It was an incredible comeback for the 25th seed, whereas serious concerns were cropping up for the top seed.
The decider set: Ashleigh v Karolina
While Barty was unable to gain her momentum back, her opponent went ahead and broke her serve. It all started to slip away from the Australian and with it the dream of the whole of Australia.
The top seed pushed her best shots and kept holding her serve. But Muchova upped her level and kept the match at a distance from Barty.
At 6-1, 3-6, 2-4*, 40-40, the Australian hit the net on what was an easy return, and Muchova broke again. She subsequently served for the match and reached her first semifinals of a Major.
The match will go down as one of the great turnarounds at the Australian Open. And full credit to the Czech professional who came back with a plan and delivered on point.
For Barty, the journey from here on will be very difficult as she had a great lead in the match. However, she will look forward to coming back stronger after the Australian Open 2021.
For Muchova, this will be her first-ever semifinals, causing three upsets to reach here. Next up, she will face either Jennifer Brady or Jessica Pegula. And on the other side, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams will play for a place in the finals.
Can Muchova be the perfect underdog and win the Happy Slam this year?
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