Surprise Barty excites coach at Oz Open; wanted to reach top 100, says Karatsev - GulfToday

Surprise Barty excites coach at Oz Open; wanted to reach top 100, says Karatsev

Ashleigh Barty

Ashleigh Barty hits a return shot against Shelby Rogers during their Australian Open match. Associated Press

Veteran coach Craig Tyzzer said Ashleigh Barty’s hot form after nearly a year out had surpassed his expectations, particularly after they were separated for six months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Barty is on track to become the first Australian champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978 and will be hot favourite when she plays 25th seed Karolina Muchova in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Australian expectations are rising for Barty, who has won nine straight matches, including at last week’s Yarra Valley Classic, after remaining home most of last year because of the pandemic.

After deciding to stay in relatively Covid-19 free Queensland, Barty’s training was complicated after Melbourne-based Tyzzer was unable to fly in for six months due to closed state borders.

With face-to-face contact not possible, the Australian coach had to use his imagination.

“I was able to actually watch her sessions from Melbourne through the camera set-up they have in Brisbane (where Barty trains),” said Tyzzer, who has been Barty’s full-time coach since 2016.

“I could hear what was going on and everything.

“I could contact her during those sessions and say, ‘Work on this, try this.’”

Eventually, Tyzzer and Barty reunited and they ramped up preparations ahead of the Australian Open.

“It was an ideal opportunity (for Barty) to take a break after a long year in 2019, early 2020,” he said.

“So she probably only hit three to four times a week. We started pre-season in October. It’s probably the longest pre-season we’ve ever had.”

But Tyzzer said the 2019 French Open champion’s imperious form had even surprised him.

“It’s probably better than I thought because... you just don’t know,” he said.

“To be where we’re is fantastic.”

While their focus is on 24-year-old Muchova, who upset 18th seed Elise Mertens in the fourth round, Tyzzer said Barty planned on playing a full schedule this year, including the postponed Tokyo Olympics, that might see her on the road until Christmas.

“Because of the quarantine arrangements here, we won’t come back for a while,” Tyzzer said of Australia’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for incoming travellers.

Meanwhile, Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev revealed on Tuesday that his humble target had merely been to break the top 100, after he made history by reaching the Australian Open semi-finals on debut.

The 27-year-old’s dream run continued with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 win against injury-hit Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov to set up a last-four clash with top seed Novak Djokovic or sixth seed Alexander Zverev.

Karatsev became the first man in the Open era to reach a semi-final on his Grand Slam debut, and just the second qualifier to do so at the Australian Open after Bob Giltinan in 1977.

He was also the lowest-ranked man, at 114, to make the semis at a Slam since Goran Ivanisevic at Wimbledon in 2001 when ranked 125.

His ranking is now projected to soar into the top 50 after his breakthrough performance in Melbourne.

“Of course not,” Karatsev said when asked if he imagined being two wins away from a Slam title.

“My first step was to try to go to top 100 by the end of last year, and it didn’t happen.

“So I said, okay, from the beginning, my first step (this year) was to be top 100. So that was my thought.”

A virtual unknown before the tournament started, Karatsev has spent the bulk of his professional career fighting for points on the ATP Challenger Tour.

Karatsev, who spent some of his childhood living in Israel, revealed he had contemplated ending his career after suffering a knee injury in 2017.

But newfound belief has fuelled him in Melbourne, blitzing eighth seed Diego Schwartzmann and 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime on his way to meeting Dimitrov.

“I try to believe what I’m doing on the court, and it’s helped me to win matches,” said Karatsev.

“I arrive on the court and say, ‘Okay, I try to do my best with more belief.’

Karatsev said he had already received about 200 WhatsApp messages after booking his semi-final berth.

“It’s amazing....I’m just trying to enjoy the moment,” he said.


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