Saturday 29 April 2017

Veteran Lucic-Baroni rolls back the years

Lucic-Baroni made the last four at Wimbledon in 1999 where she lost to Steffi Graf but has spent the intervening years losing in the early rounds of major tournaments or skipping them completely. (Stock picture)
Lucic-Baroni made the last four at Wimbledon in 1999 where she lost to Steffi Graf but has spent the intervening years losing in the early rounds of major tournaments or skipping them completely. (Stock picture)

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni gave a shock-filled Australian Open its greatest surprise of all by reaching her first Grand Slam semi-final in 18 years with victory over fifth seed Karolina Pliskova.

Lucic-Baroni, who turns 35 in March, made the last four at Wimbledon in 1999 where she lost to Steffi Graf but has spent the intervening years losing in the early rounds of major tournaments or skipping them completely.

She did not play a single Grand Slam between 2004 and 2009 as personal problems took hold including injuries, financial difficulty, as well as physical and mental abuse from her father Marinko. He has denied the allegations.

But now the Croatian is preparing for an Australian Open semi-final against Serena Williams tonight after beating world number five Pliskova 6-4 3-6 6-4 to continue her fairytale run. Lucic-Baroni last played Williams at Wimbledon in 1998 and the American won 6-3 6-0.

However, after emigrating from Croatia to Florida, along with her mother and four siblings, Lucic-Baroni's tennis career nosedived and by the start of 2000, she was already ranked outside the top 200.

She missed every Australian Open from 2001 to 2010 and in the six years since had never made it past the first round but is now one win from the final.

Williams was then still yet to win her first Grand Slam title but here she is going for an Open era record 23rd and her seventh at Melbourne Park. Williams beat Britain's Johanna Konta 6-2 6-3 to reach the last four of a Slam for the 34th time.

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