Tennis player who escaped abusive father reaches Australian Open semi-finals

Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic makes a backhand return to Croatia's Mirjana Lucic Baroni during their quarterfinal at the Australian Open tennis cha
Mirjana Lučić-Baroni inspires at Australian Open after decade of abuse
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26 January, 2017

The 34-year-old Croatian, who had already beat third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, caused one more upset of the tournament with a 6-4 3-6 6-4 win vs. fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova at Rod Laver Arena.

" "I can't believe this, this is insane".

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

"I haven't had a day off in weeks. Just the fact I was this strong and it was worth fighting this hard is really incredible".

But a medical timeout from Lucic-Baroni swung the momentum back in her favour as she blitzed Pliskova to love in consecutive games before sealing a spot in the final four when the latter missed a return.

When she was 16 years old and ranked No. 50 in the world, she said, "There have been more beatings than anyone can imagine", according to the New York Times.

Lucic-Baroni was a prodigious player in her teens but found her career derailed due to alleged abuse by her father.

Back at the All England Club in 1999, Lucic-Baroni was a 17-year-old drawing comparisons to greats of the game including Steffi Graf.

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After Lucic-Baroni broke again for a 2-0 lead in the second, Pliskova took a medical time out for treatment on her right foot.

"I know this means a lot to every player to reach the semifinals, but to me, this is just overwhelming", she said, in tears, after the match. Yet, she also served 10 aces and 25 winners during her one hour and 15 minutes on court.

The Czech reached last year's US Open final and won the Brisbane International earlier this month, leading more than a few to pick the 24-year-old as the Australian Open victor.

"At other times I really want to keep those things to myself, and I don't want to tell anybody anything, and I don't want to focus so much on that".

"This is what I've been dreaming about, : she said in her post-match press conference".

"Look at my legs", she said to emphasize how she had reached the semifinals, with a bandage on her thigh and left shin, with pains all over her body that made her call the doctor twice during the duel against Pliskova. I asked a girl once if she wanted to play doubles. "To see her in the semifinals is inspiring for me". Having not won a match at the tournament since 1998 prior to this year, many dismissed Lucic-Baroni's chances.

Despite initially bucking the trend to hold serve, Lucic-Baroni was pegged back by Pliskova, who powered her way into a 4-3 lead.

Lucic-Baroni is well aware that the next fight will be the toughest of her tennis career when she lines up opposite six-times Australian Open champion Serena Williams on Thursday for a place in the final.


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