by Kevin Craig
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s incredible story continued on Wednesday at the Australian Open as she defeated the 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, to reach her second career major semifinal.
“To me this is overwhelming. I will never, ever forget this day or the last couple of weeks,” Lucic-Baroni said.
It’s not just the second career semifinal for Lucic-Baroni, but it’s her first since 1999 when she was just 16 years old. As a teenager, many viewed Lucic-Baroni as the next big thing in women’s tennis, and that showed as she won her first WTA title and won the doubles title at the Australian Open before the age of 16.
Unfortunately, some injuries and issues in her personal life derailed her career for a few years, including a complete hiatus from tennis for a few years that saw her not compete in a single major from 2002 to 2010. Now, she is back on the court and will reach the Top 30 of the WTA rankings for the first time in her career after her run in Melbourne.
“This has truly made my life and everything bad that happened, it has made it OK,” Lucic-Baroni said.
The match started positively for Pliskova, a player who many believed would give Serena Williams issues in a potential semifinal matchup. The Czech saved a break point in her first service game, allowing her to relax and break Lucic-Baroni in the next game. The Croatian didn’t back down, though, as she came back to break twice, including in the final game of the set, to take a one-set lead.
The second set was back and forth as there were six breaks total, including two immediate exchanges of breaks. After the second exchange, Pliskova looked to have finally found her rhythm as she broke Lucic-Baroni two more times to eventually cruise to the second set win, evening up the match.
Another exchange of breaks started off the third set, meaning that Pliskova had now broken Lucic-Baroni five straight times. The 34-year old didn’t let that get her down, though, as she was able to break Pliskova again and took a 3-1 lead. Pliskova would break back a couple games later, but Lucic-Baroni had fate on her side.
With Pliskova serving at 4-4, Lucic-Baroni broke easily at love and followed that up with a comfortable hold to close out the match and earn her spot in the semifinals.
“I can’t believe this, this is crazy,” Lucic-Baroni said. “This is what I’ve been dreaming about. This is what I’ve been training for.”
Lucic-Baroni will take on 22-time major champion Serena Williams in the semifinals on Thursday. Williams will be hoping to set up an all-American final, or even an all-Williams final, as the other semifinal will see CoCo Vandeweghe take on Venus Williams.