In an Australian Open full of incredible stories, Croatian veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni may be the best of them.
The 34-year-old reached a Wimbledon semi-final in 1999 but dropped off the radar following a difficult upbringing in which she claims her father both mentally and physically abused her.
Lucic-Baroni is also reported to have suffered financial problems and, as a result, barely featured on the women’s tour through what should have been the prime of her career.
She has starred in this Australian Open, though, embarking on a run to the last four that was highlighted by her win over fifth seed Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday.
Afterwards, she broke down when speaking to commentator and ex-Australian player Rennae Stubbs, saying: “One day I will say a long, big story about the things that happened to me, but I never could dream about being here again.”
She then burst into tears, but managed to keep going.
“This means a lot to every player to reach a semi-final but to me this is just overwhelming after everything I have been through. I will never, ever forget this day and this last couple of weeks,” she added.
“This has truly made my life, and everything bad that happened – it has made it okay.
“And just the fact that I was this strong and that it was worth fighting this hard is really incredible.”
In a radio interview later in the afternoon, Stubbs told SEN: “It’s the first time I’ve heard that interview being replayed. I’ve got to tell you, I teared up just listening to it.”
Many of Lucic-Baroni’s fellow players posted tributes to her on Twitter, including American Alison Riske and Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia.
Mirjana Lucic- wow wow wow. Im crying right with her. She is a class act👏🏻🙌🏻
— Alison Riske (@Riske4rewards) January 25, 2017
— Caroline Garcia (@CaroGarcia) January 25, 2017
Bad news in the juniors
Daria Gavrilova was the only Australian player to reach the second week of the men’s or women’s singles and, unfortunately, our juniors didn’t have much success either.
Despite normally being dominant in junior tennis, the Aussies flopped at Melbourne Park.
Chase Ferguson was our last remaining hope but on Wednesday he was bundled out in straight sets by Russian Alexey Zakharov.
Ferguson’s defeat means no Australians made it past the third round at Melbourne Park in both the boys and girls singles.
Some joy in the doubles, though
There was at least something to cheer from a local perspective as Aussie pair Andrew Whittington and Marc Polmans reached the semi-finals of the men’s doubles.
And they did it in a surprise, defeating top seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut from France 7-6 (7-2) 2-6 6-4 in two hours and eight minutes.
There are just four players remaining in the women’s singles.
But that didn’t stop one reporter from mixing up Serena Williams’ semi-final opponent.
“You play someone named Venus Williams in the next round. How do you see that match going?” the journalist asked.
“I play Mirjana Lucic,” the American star responded.
That’s a lot of money …
Novak Djokovic is already there – and victory for Roger Federer against Stanislas Wawrinka on Thursday will see his career prize money surpass $US100 million.
That’s $A132 million in our money – not bad going!
Picture of the day
Serena Williams is trying to win a major under four U.S. Presidents. Keep in mind, the previous three all served two terms. That's bananas!
— Josh Mansour (@joshmansour) January 25, 2017
What’s on for Thursday
It might be Australia Day but it’s an all-Swiss clash that will headline proceedings on Rod Laver Arena as Federer faces Olympic and Davis Cup teammate Wawrinka.
The night match will see Federer bid to reach a 28th grand slam final. He has not won a grand slam since 2012 but is in imperious form.
Both women’s semi-finals will also be contested, with second seed Serena Williams to meet Lucic-Baroni in the third match of the day session.
Preceding that clash is the the other last-four battle, as Venus Williams plays fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe.