Wimbledon Day 7: Barty ready for Riske
Ash Barty's Wimbledon campaign continues in the fourth round against Alison Riske on Monday, while John Peers and Henri Kontinen are aiming for the doubles quarterfinals.
Ash Barty has arrived in the second week of the singles tournament at Wimbledon for the first time.
And she faces a tough test as she attempts to maintain her unbeaten run on grass in 2019.
The world No.1 and top seed will on Monday face Alison Riske, with a place in the quarterfinals – and a possible clash with Serena Williams – the reward for the winner.
In their only previous meeting, Riske stopped the Aussie in two tight sets in the semifinals of the ITF 50K event in Eastbourne in 2016 – Barty’s comeback tournament.
Barty and Riske this time will play first at No.2 Court on Monday, at 11am local time (8pm AEST).
— Joshua Kay (@js_kay) July 7, 2019
“Whenever Alison’s back was against the wall, she produced her best tennis. I think that’s no secret. You ask any opponent that plays Alison, she’s up for the fight, makes you work for every single point,” said Barty after her third-round win over Harriet Dart on Saturday.
“I think it will be really important for me to go out there and try and bring my variety, take my opportunities when I get them.
“Also I know she loves playing on the grass court. She’s going to make me play a million balls. I have to be at my best.”
Barty is right to tip her hat to Riske’s fighting qualities.
The American, a former world No.36 currently ranked 55th, has warded off near-certain defeat more than once during the first week at Wimbledon, beating quality opposition to improve her 2019 grass-court record to 13-1.
In the first round, she trailed No.22 seed Donna Vekic 4-1 the third set before recovering to win. And she did similar against 13th seed Belinda Bencic on Saturday, triumphing after going down 0-3, 0-40 in the decider.
Riske won back-to-back grass-court titles in Surbiton (ITF) and ‘s-Hertogenbosch (WTA), beating world No.4 Kiki Bertens in three sets despite a deficit of 6-0 4-1 and facing five match points in the second set.
As gritty as Riske’s progress has been, Barty’s has been serene.
The Australian hasn’t dropped a set in eight grass-court wins since triumphing at Roland Garros, winning the Birmingham title and beating her last two opponents at Wimbledon – Dart and Alison Van Uytvanck – in under an hour.
She appears to have suffered no let-down following her French Open breakthrough, something that has impressed Australia’s Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik immensely.
“She approached the week after Roland Garros with the right amount of attention. She went off and played golf for a week,” Molik told tennis.com.au.
“That’s probably what you need as an athlete, you need to probably empty your mind and not think about all that stuff.
“I love the fact she’s very wise about her professional career and she’s also wise about her body and how much it can take, too.
“She’s good at making those decisions for herself; a lot of other players rely on someone else to help them make that decision.”
Another thing impressing Molik – and everybody else watching – has been Barty’s stellar play on the grass of the All England Club.
The top seed, in her Centre Court singles debut on Saturday, overwhelmed Dart in a rapid-fire 53 minutes, producing 23 winners – off almost every shot in her repertoire – to just six errors in a masterful performance.
That victory extended her winning streak to 15 matches – and 20 consecutive sets.
“Ash is the type of player who can do anything. I think that’s why she is having so much success; she can flip between so many different modes, appropriate to the opponent, or the moment in the match as well,” Molik said.
“That’s what the fans love – I think they love seeing a female at the top of women’s tennis with so much variety. It’s really interesting.”
 Ash Barty (AUS) v Alison Riske (USA) – No.2 Court, first match
 John Peers (AUS) / Henri Kontinen (FIN) v  Rajeev Ram (USA) / Joe Salisbury (GBR) – Court 12, third match