WTA Insider David Kane | Former World No.32 Mirjana Lucic-Baroni overcame much to make her first major quarterfinal in 18 years, but sees the sky as the limit at the Australian Open.
WTA Staff

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni has played protagonist in almost every story that can be written about tennis. She has been the young phenom, the cautionary tale, and the dangerous-floater-cum-comeback-kid.

But for all Lucic-Baroni has been through in the public eye, the 34-year-old insisted on one thing after achieving her best result in nearly two decades: you don't know the half of it.

"People think they know a lot about my history, but they really don't," she said at the Australian Open on Monday. "One day when I feel like talking about it, I will. Right now is not that day.

"But people think they know. They have no idea. A lot of the times when I hear, like, injuries and things, those were not the problems at all."

It was those people she defiantly addressed following her win over Jennifer Brady, advancing into her first major quarterfinal since she was 17 at the 1999 Wimbledon Championships.

"I'm a tough little cookie and really, really stubborn," she said during the on-court interview. "When I want something, I work really hard and do whatever it takes to get it. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but the satisfaction I feel right now is incredible.

"I would tell anyone struggling out there to eff everything and everybody who tells you that you can't do it. Just show up and do it with your heart."

Lucic-Baroni has shown plenty of heart - and even more power - in Melbourne, especially in her opening round win over Wang Qiang, her first Down Under since 1998.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

With fans waving signs that read "MLB," she hit a home run against No.3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and expertly handled Brady, a qualifier in the midst of her own feel-good story and career-best Grand Slam result.

"She was playing pretty good, but I knew if I just kept pressing that I was going to get a step ahead," she said in her post-match press conference. "I was able to do that.

"I walk into every match completely focused. I didn't feel like a favorite or that the other day I wasn't a favorite. I just walked into a tennis match with a plan to win. That's it."

That kind of clarity is crucial for the Croat's all-out offense, helping her maintain a relatively clean average of 35 winners to 39 unforced errors through four rounds.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

It will certainly come in handy against No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova, whom she has twice beaten and pushed to a third set tie-break 16 months ago at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open.

"She's obviously playing great tennis right now, probably the best of her career, doing amazing."

Lucic-Baroni could have just as easily been referring to her own game, once a throwback but now a foreshadow to the kind of tennis Pliskova has used to remain undefeated thus far in 2017.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

"I won a lot as a junior. Then I won a lot as soon as I started playing pro. It was kind of normal. It was normal to win tournaments, normal to win big matches and go far."

Part of a generation that included Martina Hingis and both Williams sisters, winning was always in the cards, until, suddenly, it wasn't.

"The way I stopped, it wasn't really kind of by my choice," she said of her eight-year absence from major tournaments. "I couldn't travel. I wasn't able to travel. I didn't want to stop. I felt kind of a little bit of unfinished business.

"I still wanted to play on a stage like this, on a full court like this. Come out, play, have these wins, be in a quarterfinal of a Slam, have a chance to fight for a semifinal.

"Those are incredible moments. Those are incredible accomplishments. I knew I was able to do that.

"Now that it's been so long, they're extra fun, and it's extra special."

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

Her first major upset came in 2014, when she fought through nerves to earn an impressive win over Simona Halep at the US Open's Grandstand court, an appropriately nostalgic setting for the former World No.32.

She repeated the feat a few months later at the French Open, and quickly became one of the toughest outs a top seed could face at the start of their major campaigns, a role she relishes.

"Sometimes people think you play a top player and you'll go in there relaxed like you have nothing to lose," she said after beating Radwanska. "I don't see it that way at all.

"I know I have the game to beat top players so I came in there with a gameplan today to win the match. I didn't go to see the court and enjoy. I'm way too old and I've been around way too long to just gain experience. I came there to win the match."

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

Lucic-Baroni has taken a similar tact to the doubles court; nearly two decades after winning her first major title alongside Hingis in Australia, Lucic-Baroni paired Andrea Petkovic for a quarterfinal run of their own.

Wearing more and more tape as the week wore on, she stood defiantly once more in press when asked about her physicality.

"I'm used to playing a lot. I'm tougher than I look. Even last year I played finals of Strasbourg from qualies. My body knows what to do, how to recover, to play a lot of matches in a row. I can still do that."

The woman who once saw the sport stolen from her is determined push through self-described "battle wounds" and end the story of her tournament - and, by extension, career - on her terms.

"The heart is hundred percent, so that's all that matters."