Barty whisper triggers psychological war
The temperature was turned right up in Ash Barty's quarter-final debut against Czech destroyer Petra Kvitova in a second set where both players found their lungs.
The two players embraced warmly at the conclusion of Kvitova's merciless 6-1 6-4 steamrolling, but, according to one tennis commentator, there was more than a little bit of friction as the second set appeared headed for a tight finish.
Before Kvitova broke Barty's serve and ultimately her spirit to go ahead 5-4 in the second set, the match was still in the balance as Barty continued to search for new ways of counter-punching to the Czech's brute force.
Kvitova was heard on several occasions screaming loudly when celebrating key rally wins, including the ones that ended with Barty errors.
According to WTA insider Courtney Nguyen, Barty appeared at one point to retaliate by saying something under her breath at the moment Kvitova was slapped with a time violation warning in the eight game of the second set.
If you murmur at Petra she will pojd in your face i mean i don’t know what to tell you— Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) January 22, 2019
Barty's whisper didn't go unnoticed by her opponent and Kvitova responded with a series of screeching yelps as she held on for a tough hold and then broke Barty to give herself a chance to serve out the match.
petra breaks.— Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) January 22, 2019
seriously. shouldn’t have murmured after she got a time violation. never poke the petra in the zoo.
The tense moment clearly didn't spoil the immense respect and admiration the pair have for each other as made evident in the hug they shared at the net.
When asked in her post-match press conference if it appeared that Kvitova was attempting to get under Barty's skin with her vocal second set, the 22-year-old Queenslander replied: "Not at all. Not at all".
BARTY LAMENTS CROWD THAT NEVER SHOWED
Ash Barty admitted in her post match press conference that Petra Kvitova's early explosion out of the blocks all but killed her home town advantage on Rod Laver Arena.
Despite Aussie legend Jelena Dokic telling Channel 9 the Melbourne Crowd gave her "goosebumps" as Barty walked out onto court, just a few minutes later Aussie tennis commentators were complaining about the lack of support Barty appeared to be receiving as Kvitova raced through the first set 6-1 in 27 minutes.
Aussie tennis star Dylan Alcott led the complaints towards the bizarrely quiet arena.
Barty said after the loss that it was hard for the home crowd to cheer on as Kvitova proved unstoppable in the first half-hour of play.
"I think it's hard for a pro Australian crowd to get involved when I'm down 6-1 in the first set, to be honest," Barty said.
"Petra took the crowd out of it, as well. I knew she would be trying to do that. From my point of view, it doesn't really change how I behave or perform on the court.
"The crowd obviously has an impact in some regard, but certainly none of my influence tonight."
She said at the end of the day Kvitova was simply too good. She also said she was not disappointed with any aspect of her own performance - Kvitova was simply too damn good.
"I wasn't nervous at all. I was excited. I don't think it was a slow start. It was more of a Petra start. She took the match away from me," she said.
"It was very much out of my control. I know that I did everything possible to try and get myself back into that match. But she was too good tonight."
Aussie legend Dokic said she would have liked Barty to show a bit more emotion on court earlier in the match in an attempt to bring the crowd back into the equation.
"I would have liked to have maybe seen a bit of emotion and I think it would have really got the crowd really going and you know put a bit more pressure on Petra," Dokic said in courtside commentary for Channel 9.
"I'm not sure how many people in the world would have been able to stop Petra tonight maybe Serena Williams as you guys said."
Jim Courier said the "stunned silence" was simply because the crowd was in awe of Kvitova's early barrage, which produced 12 winners to Barty's two in the first set.
KVITOVA BREAKS DOWN IN EMOTIONAL INTERVIEW
Petra Kvitova is back in the semi-finals of a grand slam for the first time since 2014 - and it didn't take much to see what the achievement meant to the No. 6 seed.
Kvitova, who is now a red-hot shot to snatch the No. 1 ranking by the end of the Open, was reduced to tears when Channel 9's Jim Courier asked her about her famous comeback from the knife attack and home invasion which saw her suffer deep cuts to her hands. She also nearly lost several fingers in the attack.
It has been a long road back, and the distance she has come to reach the last four in Melbourne was all a bit much for her.
She had to cover her mouth and tried to hide her face when Courier asked if she had ever lost belief that she would return to the top of women's tennis following the scary ordeal.
"No, I didn't really imagine to be back on this amazing stadium and to play with the best and it's great," she said after taking a moment to compose herself.