How ‘Team Barty’ survived lockdown in different states
Ash Barty has exceeded her coach's expectations with an almost flawless run into the Australian Open quarter-finals.
Craig Tyzzer knew the world No. 1 was in great shape but he can't stop smiling about the level of play from Barty who is on a nine-match winning streak leading into her quarter-final showdown with Czech Karolina Muchova.
The 2019 French Open champion hasn't missed a beat after her 11-month layoff, winning the Australian Open warm-up tournament and then not dropping a set through the first week of the tournament.
"It was a bit of an unknown for missing so much tennis, not playing matches for a while," Tyzzer said.
"To sort of come back and keep getting better and keep progressing. She's put it together really well, probably better than I expected and I'm just happy where she's at."
The draw has opened up perfectly for the Australian who if she can get past Muchova faces either unseeded American Jessica Pegula or 22nd seed Jennifer Brady in the semi-finals.
While Tyzzer has deliberately not looked too far ahead he knows the hometown favourite is ticking over perfectly.
"To be where we're at is fantastic, to keep playing in a grand slam, it's always difficult to win matches," he said.
"You've got to be there on the day, win seven matches to get there. She knows how tough it is to do. She's done it once before.
"She's preparing the best she can. She's getting ready every day, doing all the right things. The best part is when she's going out, she's really competing really well.
"I just hope that keeps going. I know if she goes out and does her best, her best is often good enough."
Tyzzer explained how he'd been able to guide Brisbane-based Barty's preparation last year despite being in different states - he was stuck in Melbourne because of COVID-19 restrictions.
"Once we thought we were getting closer to playing, I was able to actually watch her sessions from Melbourne through the camera set-up they have in Brisbane," he said.
"I could hear what was going on and everything. I just had to ring her on the phone if there was anything I wanted her to do, work on anything, I could contact her during those sessions and say, `Work on this, try this'.
"We had an early pre-season, we started in October and it's gone for a while, it's probably the longest pre-season we've ever had."
The match-up with the 25th seeded Muchova is an intriguing one as it's been almost two-and-a-half years since their only meeting in the third round of the 2018 US Open.
Barty prevailed in straight sets 6-3 6-4 but came away impressed by the little known Czech player who at that stage was ranked 200 in the world.
"She's (Muchova) super talented, she's a great athlete, she's got all the shots, an attacking player, likes to come forward and I actually like the way she plays tennis," Tyzzer said.
"I know Ash is looking forward to it. She enjoyed that match (at the US Open), too. It was a really high-quality tennis match.
"It was on an outside court with hardly anyone, about five people watched it. Same numbers, but just a different court (here).
"It's a great test because she is such a quality player, obviously improved out of sight from back then to where she is now. I think it will be a great contest."
QUARANTINE QUEEN: TENNIS STAR DEFYING THE ODDS
Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva said she "would think twice" about competing at the Australian Open if she had known she would be forced into a hard 14-day quarantine beforehand.
Switzerland's Belinda Bencic hit out at the "unequal" practice conditions between those in hard quarantine and those in soft quarantine, the latter of whom were allowed out of their rooms for five hours a day to practice.
But American Jennifer Brady was as quiet as the mouse Putintseva found in her hotel room.
The 22nd seed made a conscious decision to not "complain" and instead make the best of a far-from-ideal situation.
As a result, Brady is the only player left standing in the Australian Open who went through hard quarantine.
What started as a pool of 72 players was whittled down to just one by the quarterfinals.
"A lot of people were complaining and I told myself I wasn't going to complain," Brady said.
"I mean, there's way worse things going on in the world than me being stuck in a hotel room for 14 days.
"Tennis Australia provided us with a bike. The last few days I had a treadmill. I had weights. I was able to train to work out. It was a small hotel room, but I was able to do everything that I needed to do to stay as fit as possible.
"If I started feeling bad for myself or started complaining, I think it would have made the 14 days a lot harder than it was. There were a couple of us that were pretty positive and tried to each day just be like, 'Okay, only five more days and we're out'.
"Every Australian that comes home has to do the hard lockdown."
The glass half-full attitude is now paying dividends - literally.
Brady will meet fellow American Jessica Pegula on Wednesday with a semi-final berth on the line, which would net the 25-year-old a minimum payday of $850,000.
It would also equal her career-best Grand Slam result, which was a semi-final appearance at the US Open last year.
"The more matches you play, the further you go in tournaments, especially big tournaments, the more experience you gain and then the more confidence you gain," Brady said.
"It helps you in those moments to believe in yourself and to close out matches.
"I think everyone back home in America will be watching, definitely, and there's guaranteed an American in the semi-final."
Originally published as How 'Team Barty' survived lockdown in different states