Former cricketer Ash Barty bowled Maria Sharapova out of the Australian Open to spark a Barty Party in the Rod Laver Arena.
The 22-year-old became so disillusioned with tennis in 2014 that she quit and played in the Women’s Big Bash League for Brisbane Heat.
She returned to the sport in 2016 and has climbed up the rankings to become Aussie No.1 – and ran up the biggest win of her career by stumping five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova 4-6 6-1 6-4 in a stunning display.
Barty won nine consecutive games from 1-1 in the second set to whip the home crowd into a frenzy.
And the Russian was booed when she returned from a seven-minute toilet break at the end of the second set – and her double faults and a time violation were cheered by the Aussies.
The Queen of Scream was over and out when Barty took her fourth match point with an ace.
Barty, the last home player left in the singles who has reached her first Grand Slam quarter-finals, said: “I gave myself the opportunity in the third set and just didn’t take take them.
“I just had to take a deep breath, I knew she is a champion and she wouldn’t go away.”
Asked if she could ever have thought she would be here when she went off to play cricket, she added: “I think there I was pretty rapped the Heat girls won yesterday. But no, this is unreal.
“Playing in front of a packed house and a great court, there is nothing better.”
She faces Petra Kvitova on Tuesday.
In her tense post-match press conference, Sharapova refused to discuss the crowd’s reaction or her Grand Slam record since returning from a drug ban.
The Russian was suspended for 15 months for testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open after the substance was added to the WADA banned list on January 1 of that year.
Since returning to tennis, she has run out of steam at the end of Grand Slams and only reached only quarter-final in Paris last year.
Asked if she is struggling to deal with the physical demands of a Grand Slam fortnight without meldonium, she looked away and said: “Is there another question?”
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