An emotional Mirjana Lucic-Baroni has continued her remarkable run into the Australian Open semi-finals with a topsy-turvy 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 upset victory over number-five seed Karolina Pliskova.
It came 18 years after Lucic-Baroni’s only previous grand slam semi-final appearance.
The Croatian then spent many years away from the sport and later claimed she had been abused from early childhood by her father.
Lucic-Baroni will play six-time Open champion Serena Williams on Thursday for a place in the title match.
“I can’t believe it — this is crazy,” said Lucic-Baroni.
“God is good. That’s really all I can say.”
The world number 79 said one day she would open up fully about all the hardships she has endured before this unexpected late-career renaissance.
I know this means a lot to any player to reach the semis, but for me it is overwhelming.”
The 34-year-old took a medical timeout when trailing 3-4 in the final set against Pliskova on Wednesday, before returning to streak through the final three games in a match lasting one hour and 48 minutes.
Both players had plenty of trouble serving throughout, with the Czech dropping serve three times in the decider.
“It’s really tough,” Lucic-Baroni said. “I’m going to do my best to keep calm and recover.”
Serena on track for seventh title
Second-seeded Williams was rarely troubled against British ninth seed Johanna Konta, winning 6-2, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.
She dominated on serve, sending down 10 aces and losing only one service game compared to four breaks of her opponent.
Williams also hit 25 winners to Konta’s 11, and she held her serve to love to finish the match in one hour 15 minutes.
The 35-year-old has won the women’s singles title in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2015 — and now she must be the strong favourite a seventh title, with two unseeded players and one other seed left in the semi-finals.
In advancing to her 10th consecutive grand slam semi-final, she also completed the oldest Australian Open women’s last-four line-up in 40 years.
Before Williams takes on 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni, her older sister Venus, 36, will face fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe, a relative spring chicken at 25, in Thursday’s first semi-final.
“It’s really amazing. Thirty is the new 10,” said Williams, who labelled Lucic-Baroni’s revival as inspiring.
“I’m so proud of Mirjana. She’s been playing so well,” Williams said.
We played well over a decade ago. Oh my god, over two decades ago.
“No matter who wins, someone older than 34 will be in the final and that’s just great.”