Ash Barty leaves teammate red-faced
It started off so sweetly but Ash Barty left the killer blow until the very end.
Basking in the glow of her straight sets win over Shelby Rogers to advance to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, Barty was keen to heap praise on her entire team and let the country know she doesn't deserve all the credit for powering towards grand slam glory.
"They're my family. They're with me so many days of the year, so many weeks of the year," Barty said of her inner sanctum after the victory.
"We go through the highs together, we go through the lows together and we go through all the hard work in between.
"I'm so appreciative of them that they've sacrificed so much time and energy to put into my career and to chase our goals and to chase our dreams.
"Most of all we have fun doing it. There's a lot of laughter, there's a lot of love."
It was the perfect tribute that read like a Valentine's Day card - but little did strength and conditioning coach Mark Taylor know he was going to get a special shout-out he could have done without.
"Even though there's a fair bit of banter from a certain Englishman that has just come into the pack, we've welcomed him in, kind of," Barty joked.
"He'll be up there (in the stands) with a red cherry face right now, which is brilliant."
Bearing the same name as a former Australian cricket captain means Taylor been dubbed with the same nickname too, Barty revealing the man in charge of preparing her physically is "aptly nicknamed 'Tubs' as well, so it's all good".
The camera panned to Taylor in the stands as he cracked up laughing, then sheepishly pretended to maintain a low profile by putting his hand over his face.
Barty was ruthless in her 6-3 6-4 victory over the in-form Rogers in one hour and 11 minutes in the fourth round at a crowd-less Rod Laver Arena.
Barty, who is aiming to become the first Australian champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978, plays 25th seed Karolina Muchova in the quarter-finals after the Czech beat 18th seed Elise Mertens 7-6 (7-5) 7-5.
"I love playing at home and sharing this with my friends and family," said Barty, who hit 21 winners.
"She (Rogers) is a player that can take the game away from you very quickly, so I needed my running shoes on.
"I served well and I tried to be in control of as many points as I could."
The former French Open champion again appeared unfazed by the absence of home support in the stands, with fans barred until at least Thursday due to Melbourne's snap, five-day lockdown.
Having been pushed to the brink by Rogers earlier this month in the Yarra Valley Classic quarter-finals, an aggressive Barty stepped up the intensity with strong serving and blunted the American's groundstrokes with a slew of brilliant retrievals.
Barty, who has been carrying a niggle to her heavily strapped left thigh, moved smoothly and counterattacked superbly to thwart Rogers' aggressive approach with an early break as the American dropped her first set of the tournament.
It was much the same in the second set with Barty using canny slices to toy with 28-year-old Rogers, who was aiming for her third grand slam quarter-final.
Barty let slip two match points on serve in the seventh game but calmly closed it out on her next service opportunity.
Australian expectations are rising for Barty, whose side of the draw has opened up with the early exits of defending champion Sofia Kenin, world No. 5 Elina Svitolina and world No. 6 Karolina Pliskova.
American Jennifer Brady is the next highest seed in Barty's bracket at 22.
Barty, 24, has reached the quarter-finals of her home slam for the third straight year.
Originally published as Ash Barty leaves teammate red-faced