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Riske pays off: Grass-court specialist knocks top seed Barty out of Wimbledon

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 8 Jul 2019
  • Alison Riske defeated Ashleigh Barty 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round of Wimbledon
  • Defeat ends French Open champion's 15-match winning streak
  • Barty: 'It's a tough pill to swallow.'
World no. 1 Ashleigh Barty lost in the fourth round of Wimbledon to Alison Riske (PA Sports)

Ashleigh Barty knocked out of Wimbledon in the fourth round by Alison Riske.


French Open champion Ashleigh Barty's hopes of a rare 'Channel Slam' were ended by American grass-court specialist Alison Riske on Monday.

Riske celebrates victory over Barty (PA Sports)
The unseeded Riske defeated world no. 1 Barty 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the first Grand Slam quarterfinal of her career, where she will face 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams.

Williams crushed Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals, maintaining her perfect record against the Spaniard, who has not taken a set from her in seven meetings.

Barty came into the fourth-round clash with Riske on a 15-match winning streak, having claimed her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open, then won the Nature Valley Classic on grass in Birmingham without dropping a set to rank world no. 1 and secure the top seeding for Wimbledon.

She had not dropped a set through the first three rounds and had been broken the fewest times of any player in The Championships. But in Alison Riske, she had an opponent far tougher than the American's unseeded status would suggest.

In these days of increasingly homogenized surface speeds and only three weeks of grass-court tennis in the season before Wimbledon, Riske is as close to a grass-court specialist as you can get. Her first main-draw wins on the WTA Tour came in a run to the semifinals of Birmingham as a qualifier in 2010 and she has won at least one title on grass every year since 2015.

World no. 55 Riske compiled a ten-match winning streak on grass in June as she won first the ITF Surbiton $100k title and then the WTA Tour International-level 's-Hertogenbosch title, where she pulled off a big comeback against top-10 player Kiki Bertens in the final.

Riske delivered a tremendous performance (PA Sports)
Barty's first service game saw her produce four aces to hold to love, but it was the last time her serve would really impress in this encounter. The Australian produced a fantastic backhand slice winner down the line to set up break point and took an early lead on Riske, 3-1, but the American fought through a tough service hold to stay in touch and then broke back for 3-4, hammering backhand winners into the corners. 

Barty immediately rebounded, breaking back and closing out the first set having struck eight aces and 13 winners in total and won 93% of points behind her first serve. But her first-serve percentage was low and she was struggling to win any points behind her second serve. These signs of potential trouble swiftly bore fruit in the second set as Riske raced to a 4-1 lead. Barty's first-service percentage had dropped below 50% and Riske was punishing every second delivery with absolutely ferocious, pin-point accurate returning, breaking again to take the second set 2-6 as she struck a passing winner down the line off her flat forehand.

The first break point of the decider went to Barty as Riske served at 2-2, but the American's flat, fearless hitting off both wings saw her save it and she lunged for a reflex volley winner off a ferocious cross-court forehand from Barty for game point. It proved pivotal; Riske was just too good and although Barty held from 15-30 at 3-3, on her next service game she buckled under the pressure of Riske's continuing ferocious returning, the American striking a clean backhand return winner for break point and then a forehand winner down the line to lead 5-3 in the decider.

Barty would have one more sliver of a chance as she went up 15-30 on Riske's serve as the American tried to close out the match, but Riske would not be denied, ripping the opportunity to attack out of the Australian's hands with a big forehand down the line and going on to close out the match.

With wins over Donna Vekic, Belinda Bencic and now Barty, Riske has beaten three of the most dangerous players in the world on this surface to reach her first Wimbledon quarterfinal at the age of 29.

'Overall it's been a hell of a trip. Disappointed right now. Obviously it's a tough pill to swallow,' Barty said afterwards. 

'In the same breath, it's been an incredible few months. New ground for me here at Wimbledon. This is the best we've done.'

The defeat also puts Barty's world no. 1 ranking at risk - she could lose it should Karolina Pliskova reach the final.

Riske will face Serena Williams in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. The pair have never played before.



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Riske pays off: Grass-court specialist knocks top seed Barty out of Wimbledon

Alison Riske snapped the 15-match winning streak of Ashleigh Barty, defeating the French Open champion 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to end the world no. 1's Wimbledon campaign and reach her first quarterfinal

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