Ash's perfect response to Wimbledon shock
It was looking like Ash Barty would emerge unscathed from the toughest quarter of the Wimbledon draw but her nasty surprise came in the form of unseeded American Alison Riske.
The world No. 55 stunned the Aussie in the fourth round of Wimbledon, recording a 3-6 6-2 6-3 win to reach her first ever quarter-final of a grand slam.
It means Barty's hopes of claiming back-to-back major titles have been crushed but the way the Aussie handled her surprising result was all class.
While admitting she was deeply disappointed, the 23-year-old showed a maturity beyond her years when reflecting on what the defeat means in the grand scheme of things.
"Overall it's been a hell of a trip. Disappointed right now, obviously it's a tough pill to swallow. 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," she said.
"Today wasn't my day. I didn't win a tennis match. It's not the end of the world. It's a game. I love playing the game. I do everything in my power to try and win every single tennis match. But that's not the case.
"Today, it's disappointing right now. Give me an hour or so, we'll be all good. The sun's still going to come up tomorrow."
Barty's been known to celebrate wins with a couple of beers and she said one or two cold ones are on the cards after her loss. She reiterated the result, although it came as a shock to many, won't weigh her down forever and she definitely won't let it affect her as a person.
"It's incredibly tough right now. But in saying that, it's also only a tennis match. I try to do everything I can to win the tennis match. If I don't, the sun is still going to come up tomorrow," she said.
"I have an incredible team of people around me who love me and support me and are with me through this journey. It's easy to go back now and chat to them about it. There are so many things we wish we had done. The 'what ifs'.
"That's not what we try to focus on that. We focus on the positives. The positives of what have been over the last two months, last six months, and for this year, it's been incredible.
"Today wasn't my day, but that's not going to define us as a team, it's not going to define me as a person. I think that's the most important thing."
“I didn’t win a tennis match. It’s not the end of the world.”— Adam Peacock (@adampeacock3) July 8, 2019
ASH REVEALS SECRET DISNEY PLOY
It may have taken three press conferences, but the world's media finally cottoned on to the game Barty was playing with reporters on duty at Wimbledon.
After her third round win over British wildcard Harriet Dart, Barty had journalists in the main interview room cracking up with a line about seaweed after being asked about her vast repertoire of shots.
"I think for me sometimes I look at a shot, I play a shot, I think the seaweed is always greener in someone else's lake," she said. "I try and think of how else I can win the point."
It was a quote from The Little Mermaid and going back through the transcripts, Barty had also made references to The Lion King and Toy Story in the opening week.
"We kind of came into it thinking like Hakuna Matata," Barty said after her round one win before another press conference saw her deliver this one liner: "I chat to my niece and over and over she just tells me, 'You can go to infinity and beyond'."
After her loss to Riske, Barty revealed the reasoning behind her quirky quotes.
"Well, it's a bit of interest, hasn't it?" she said. "Look, it was a way for us to enjoy it and try to bring a little bit more energy, I suppose, in the press. I love Disney. I watch it all the time.
"Look, it's been a bit of fun for all of us. You guys caught on I think the third time around. It's been a bit of fun."
WHAT DO THE RANKINGS LOOK LIKE NOW?
Barty shot to the top of the world rankings for the first time when she won the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham in her final hitout before Wimbledon but her position as No. 1 was in danger after her defeat.
When former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka suffered a shock first round exit at the All England Club, it gave Barty some breathing space at the top. Riske put a dent in that standing because if No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova was to go deep at Wimbledon, she could have usurped Barty.
But the Czech lost a three-set thriller 6-4 5-7 11-13 to compatriot Karolina Muchova so the Aussie remains head of the class.
Like most things she can't control, the Aussie wasn't wasting her energy worrying about the world rankings picture.
"It's out of my control. We've done absolutely everything. I'm so proud of myself and my team over the last six to eight weeks. We've had an incredible trip, incredible couple of months," Barty said.
"Yeah, I mean, that's out of my control now. If Karolina plays some good tennis, gets to that, then she'll deserve it. No fighting that.
"If that's the case, it won't really change what we do."
RISKE EQUALS REWARD
Riske was emotional in the immediate aftermath of her win as she fought to hold back tears.
"I'm so excited, I think ultimately I'm just really proud of myself for the way I handled today's match and all previous matches," she said.
"I couldn't be more proud of myself."
The 29-year-old will now face Serena Williams for the first time in her career after the 23-time major winner defeated Carla Suarez Navarro in straight sets to set up a quarter-final clash with her countrywoman.
All of Riske's matches have gone to three sets and she's reinforced her status as a grass court specialist after adding Barty to a list of victims that already included 22nd seed Donna Vekic and 13th seed Belinda Bencic.
"I'm so thrilled. 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," Riske said.
"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.
"I think ultimately it just came down to being ready for a battle. Like I said multiple times, nothing is ever going to be perfect out there. If it is, it's very rare. I just think I was ready for whatever was going to come my way.
"I knew exactly what I was trying to do out there, what I was trying to execute. I knew that if I did them better than 50 per cent, I was probably going to come out on top."
SOCIAL MEDIA REACTS
There was plenty of reaction on social media after Barty's loss. Some speculated about what led to her loss and others lauded her effort.
Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett was among those who were still singing Barty's praises even after her early exit, as was former Aussie cricketer Lisa Sthalekar, while some were simply in shock.
Ash Barty goes down in three sets, but goes up 5 times in her sportsmanship. Is is a wonderful example for all Australian athlete's.— Jeff Kennett (@jeff_kennett) July 8, 2019
What an amazing few weeks for Ash Barty. She has been an absolute pleasure to watch. I am sure she will be disappointed to not progress, but man oh man, she is here to stay & play some serious tennis 🎾 #Wimbledon— Lisa Sthalekar (@sthalekar93) July 8, 2019
Not impressed by Barty out there. Don't know if it's the pressure finally getting to her. Riske, her usual threat on grass, went for everything, played without fear and got rewarded.— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) July 8, 2019