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Ash Barty reaches Australian Open quarterfinals; Frances Tiafoe sets up meeting with Rafael Nadal

AP

It was like a party at Rod Laver Arena. A partisan crowd backed Ash Barty, booed Maria Sharapova and celebrated wildly when the first Australian woman in a decade reached the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.

Rod Laver was there watching, among the tennis greats. Prime Minister Scott Morrison in his green Aussie cap was cheering from the side of the court. It was in vogue for Aussies to be watching. Anna Wintour, too.

It took four match points and 2 hours, 22 minutes before Barty fended off 2008 champion Sharapova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, reaching the quarterfinals of a major for the first time. She’s the first Australian woman since Jelena Dokic to reach the last eight at the home Grand Slam tournament. No Aussie woman has won it in 41 years.

She’ll next play two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who dismantled 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova 6-2, 6-1 in 59 minutes to return to the Australian Open quarterfinals for the first time in seven years.

“When I’m counting the years, it’s pretty long,” Kvitova said. “But, you know, sometimes the waiting time is worth for it. I’m not complaining at all.”

Danielle Collins upset three-time major winner Angelique Kerber 6-0, 6-2. She hadn’t won a match at a Grand Slam before coming to Australia — now she’s in the quarterfinals.

Frances Tiafoe celebrated his 21st birthday with a spot in his first major quarterfinal, beating No. 20-seeded Grigor Dmitrov 7-5 7-6 (6), 6-7 (1), 7-5. The American took off his shirt, flexed his right bicep and waved to the crowd on Melbourne Arena.

After beating the likes of No. 5 Kevin Anderson and Dmitrov, the road ahead gets significantly tougher for Tiafoe. He next plays No. 2-seeded Rafael Nadal, the 17-time major winner who didn’t let Tomas Berdych on the scoreboard for 1½ sets before finishing off a 6-0, 6-1, 7-6 (4) fourth-round win.

Nadal beat Australians in the first three rounds and then dominated a long-time rival, winning the first nine games before the 2010 Wimbledon finalist finally held serve and held up his left fist in mock celebration.

“When you’re back, you need a little bit of the luck in the beginning,” said Nadal, who didn’t play a competitive match between the last U.S. Open and the season-opening major in Australia because of injuries.

“I’m in the quarterfinals, let’s see what happens now.”