LONDON, Great Britain - Unseeded American Alison Riske is through to her first career Wimbledon quarterfinal after upsetting World No.1 Ashleigh Barty in three sets to claim the first upset of Manic Monday.
The tireless Riske came into her clash against Barty having played almost five more hours of tennis than her opponent after having to negotiate three consecutive three-set matches - having to come back from a set down in two of those to take down No.13 seed Belinda Bencic and No.22 Donna Vekic.
She pulled it off against Barty once again, firing 30 winners and two aces en route to her first ever win against a World No.1 player. Riske turned around a set deficit, and rallied all the way back on Court No.2 to knock out Barty, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, and book her spot in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
“I'm so thrilled,” Riske enthused in her post-match press conference. “I think honestly the biggest key for me has just been to battle from start to finish of every match that I've been a part of. Judging by the scoreline, they haven't all gone perfect.
“I feel like I've been there in every moment, looking to impose myself. I'm really most proud about that. I think just being tough has been the key.”
The American’s win also snaps Barty’s winning streak at an impressive 15 matches in a row - dating back to her French Open triumph and including a Birmingham title along with way.
Barty set the tone early on, recording the perfect start with four aces in a row in her first service game. She had Riske under pressure throughout, and was rewarded with an early break for a 3-1 lead. Riske came storming back to get them back on serve at 4-3, but Barty broke straight back to reestablish her lead and take the opening set.
But Riske, whose best tennis flourishes on the grass courts, rallied back in the second set. She peppered her game with successful forays to the net and outlasted Barty in the long rallies, earning an early break at 3-1. Another break at 6-2 had Barty in even more trouble, dropping her first set on grass all year.
Barty had a chance at 2-2 to go up a break against Riske in the third set, but with the American fully dialled in and shutting down points at the net, she wasn’t able to convert. Instead, it was Riske who raised her level in the big moments, notching a late break at 5-3 to serve out the biggest win of her career.
“I'm so incredibly excited,” Riske grinned. “The fact that it's at Wimbledon, my favorite Grand Slam, the place that I had always dreamed to be in the last eight club of... they can't kick me out now, I'm here to stay,” she laughed. “I am just over the moon, so happy.”
Barty’s defeat also sends a ripple through the Wimbledon field, as her No.1 ranking is now back up for grabs. There were four women who started the fortnight with a chance to overtake her: now, Karolina Pliskova stands as the lone challenger, and she would need to reach the final to return to the WTA World No.1 spot.
“I think I started well, I was sticking to how I wanted to play,” Barty said. “Then in the second set, I think my serve let me down. I let Alison get back into the match too many times, having looks at second serves.
“Overall I didn't play a poor match. When I needed to, when the big moments were there, Alison played better today. Tough one to swallow but I lost to a better player.”
Meanwhile, Riske now awaits the winner between former champion Serena Williams, who eased past No.30 seed Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-2 to advance.
“I think it's super exciting. I played doubles with Serena, but never played against her. It will be an interesting match. Again, I think today was a great preparation for me going into the Serena match.
“I'm ready for a war. She's the greatest athlete I think that's ever been on the women's side. It's going to be a huge challenge, but I'm really looking forward to it.”