Cryptic response to Barty mystery
Ash Barty has marched deeper into the Australian Open than ever before and is hunting history as she aims to become the first hometown hero since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005 to qualify for the final Down Under.
Barty was dumped out of the quarter-finals last year by Petra Kvitova but got her revenge against the seventh-seeded Czech on Tuesday, winning 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 to keep her hopes of claiming a second grand slam singles title alive.
The reigning French Open champion will face American Sofia Kenin in her semi-final on Thursday and the hype is growing as the Barty Party rolls on.
CRYPTIC RESPONSE TO BARTY MYSTERY
Kenin's quarter-final victory over Ons Jabeur was the first match on Rod Laver Arena when play kicked off at 11am yesterday before Barty vs Kvitova followed that clash at lunchtime.
When the schedule was announced, many questioned why the top seed was not given the blockbuster prime time slot at night on centre court.
On The Tennis Podcast, BBC commentator David Law said: "We all thought she (Barty) should be scheduled in the night match because there'd be so many more eyeballs on it.
"A lot of people are at work (during the day), a lot of kids are at school."
Why wouldn't they put Barty v Kvitova on at night? Is it the case that networks prefer men's matches for primetime because they're likely to run longer, holding audience share for a longer period of time? #AusOpen— Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) January 28, 2020
I am annoyed that Barty vs Kvitova isn't a primetime night session match. It deserves top billing and the same kind of build-up as Kyrgios-Nadal had. #AusOpen— Nikhila (@kokudum) January 28, 2020
Asked by Law in her post-match press conference whether she'd requested to play during the day rather than at night, Barty gave a cagey response where she refrained from confirming that was the case, but spoke openly of how much she enjoyed playing under the sun.
"I think everyone has preferences of when they like to play but for me I love playing in the sun, I love playing in the daytime," Barty said.
"We play more matches in the daytime than we do at night but I think with the other quarter-final being played in the morning, it was fine as well. I'm happy to play in the sun anytime."
Barty lost to Kvitova at Melbourne Park last year when they squared off at night, so that may have been an added incentive to get out onto the court earlier than some people may have been expecting.
"I asked if she'd requested to play in the daytime because of the conditions being different to what she played Kvitova in last year when they played in the night session," Law said.
"She didn't answer explicitly.
"It's quite clear she and the team have made a request to play in the afternoon.
"She is the world No. 1, she is the big star in Australia and maybe that would have carried some weight."
'TAKING THE P***': ASH'S LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP
Unlike some megastar athletes, Barty would avoid the spotlight if she could.
The down-to-earth Queenslander is as humble as they come and admits it can be uncomfortable to always be the centre of attention.
Before the Australian Open her face was everywhere in newspapers and advertisements as organisers and sponsors used Barty to promote the tournament, but the 23-year-old tries to ignore it as much as she can.
"Tell me about it," Barty chuckled when quizzed about being "unavoidable" in Melbourne at this time of the year.
"My team do a good job of taking the p*** a little bit and sending me some of the photos (of promotional pieces).
"Look, you just have to have fun with it. That's the only way.
"When I do see myself I kind of laugh a little bit because I feel pretty goofy doing them but it's all in good fun."
Asked if there was a point where she could actually enjoy all the attention and love being thrown her way, Barty added: "Nah, I'd prefer to just be sitting at home living my quiet little life.
"No offence, but not having to chat to you guys (journalists) every day would be pretty good. I feel like I have nothing to say, I'm talking in circles a little bit.
"It's incredible, it's part of the journey. I hate it and I love it - it's all in good fun.
"I'm here to try and do the best that I can and obviously it's exciting and hopefully I can bring a smile to a few faces around our country and around the world, but for me it's trying to do the best that I can and find that enjoyment for myself and my team."
AUSSIE GREAT MARVELS AT OUR NEWEST HERO
Former Australian star and current Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik said she was "incredibly proud" of Barty's rise.
"I've loved seeing (Barty) develop and grow," Molik said on SEN Breakfast.
"She's got the perspective now of making the most of every single moment and it's an advantage she's got over every single player."
Barty's favourite shot, the slice backhand, is also proving to be a useful tool as she makes her run at Melbourne Park.
"It's a point of variance isn't it?" Molik said of the shot, which is able to change the tempo of a point and drag her opponents deeper into the court.
"Everyone talks about the range of shots she can make and something that sets her apart from the rest is her ability to shift through the gears."