One of Australia’s esteemed tennis brains is plotting Ashleigh Barty’s Wimbledon demise as the World No.1 prepares to meet American Alison Riske at Wimbledon on Monday night.
Craig O’Shannessy is the chief strategist for the men’s No.1 Novak Djokovic and has been commissioned to help devise a game plan for Riske against Barty in the fourth round.
“I don’t work for Tennis Australia,” O’Shannessy told AAP on Sunday. “Tennis is a global game. I have no allegiances.”
O’Shannessy, also the ATP’s and Wimbledon’s chief tournament analyst, has been working with Djokovic for the past two-and-a-half years, having previously assisted several other grand slam heavyweights.
Now he’s in Riske’s camp after being approached by the world No.55’s coach Billy Heiser.
“I’ve known Craig for a long time. I’ve always liked what he’s done,” Heiser said. “I know he’s working with Novak and I just asked if he’d be willing to sit down and go over some things.
And he went over some things for one of our other matches and I just asked if he could go over a few things against Ash. I hope it disrupts some things.’’
Eager to gain any advantage, Heiser is confident Riske, already with a tour-best 13 grass-court wins over the past month, can trouble Barty.
“I know we’re going to be prepared and I know that Ali’s going to go out there and play her game and, if she can do things at a high level, I think it’s going to give Ash some problems,” he said.
“I think everyone knows she can play on grass and she’s dangerous.
“It’s not just grass either. She can play on all surfaces. It’s just getting her to be more consistent week in, week out.
“She made a final on clay last year. She made a final on hard this year, so she can play on all surfaces, but grass just simplifies things for her.
“But Ash is No.1 in the world for a reason.”
The Albury-born, Texas-based O’Shannessy is no stranger to working against Australian No.1s. He masterminded then world No.262 Melinda Czink’s first-round upset win over 10th seed Sam Stosur at Wimbledon in 2011.
That was Stosur’s last grand slam loss before beating Serena Williams in the US Open final that year.
O’Shannessy laughs off the suggestion he’s a turncoat to be coaching against Australia’s new sporting golden girl.
“I love Australian tennis,” he said. “I’m always available to help out.”
And while all Australian eyes will be on Barty on Monday, American teenager Cori “Coco” Gauff will carry the hopes of many as she tackles seventh seed Simona Halep on Monday.
The 15-year-old’s run into the fourth round at the All England Club has thrilled tennis fans and earned praise from superstar Serena Williams.
“I would be wrong to … give her advice. She’s doing great,” Williams said. “There are some 15-year-olds, like me, who wouldn’t know what to do at Wimbledon.
“Then you have Coco … (who is) on a different level. She’s totally capable and ready. Not every 15-year-old is the same.”
Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer also took notice of the youngster’s mentality in her debut grand slam.
“I was terrible at 15, couldn’t be on a court for longer than an hour-and-a-half. I would walk away,” Federer said.
“She seems developed. She’s moving great. It’s one of her great strengths. And her mind, which is not usually the case when you look at younger players.”
Gauff’s success has been put down to her on-court thinking and ever-changing strategy, an inherent ability to try different things when the going gets tough.
“I don’t really believe in fate and destiny… you can change your own world,” Gauff said.
“I take it just one tournament at a time.”
MEN’S FOURTH-ROUND LINE-UP ON MONDAY
1-Novak Djokovic (SRB) v Ugo Humbert (FRA)
21-David Goffin (BEL) v Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
26-Guido Pella (ARG) v 15-Milos Raonic (CAN)
23-Roberto Bautista-Agut (ESP) v 28-Benoit Paire (FRA)
Sam Querrey (USA) v Tennys Sandgren (USA)
Joao Sousa (POR) v 3-Rafael Nadal (ESP)
8-Kei Nishikori (JPN) v Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ)
Matteo Berrettini (ITA) v 2-Roger Federer (SUI)
WOMEN’S FOURTH-ROUND LINE-UP ON MONDAY
1-Ashleigh Barty v Alison Riske (USA)
11-Serena Williams v 30-Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)
19-Johanna Konta (GBR) v 6-Petra Kvitova (CZE)
Barbora Strycova (CZE) v 21-Elise Mertens (BEL)
8-Elina Svitolina (UKR) v 24-Petra Martic (CRO)
Karolina Muchova (CZE) v 3-Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
7-Simona Halep (ROM) v Cori Gauff (USA)
Zhang Shuai (CHN) v Dayana Yastremska (UKR)
*Number denotes seeding