Ash Barty is digesting one of the most deflating defeats of her celebrated career after crashing out of the US Open with a shock third-round collapse against inspired American Shelby Rogers.
Barty blew a 5-2 double-break lead in the deciding set of a dramatic 6-2 1-6 7-6 (7-5) loss to the 43rd-ranked Rogers at Flushing Meadows.
Barty had beaten the unseeded 28-year-old in their previous five encounters, including four times this season, leaving even Rogers open-mouthed in disbelief after her stunning comeback win.
Australia’s vanquished world No.1 admitted “it’s a tough one to swallow”.
“It’s never nice when you have a couple opportunities to serve out a match and can’t get it done … brutal,” Barty said.
“I found a way back into my match. I found a way to really turn it in my favour and just wasn’t able to just quite finish off.
“In the end, I just didn’t quite have enough in the tank.
“I’ve left everything out on the court this year. It was no different tonight.
“It’s disappointing but we move on. I sleep well tonight knowing I gave everything I could.”
Roller coaster ride
Unsure of her immediate plans, Barty said her earliest exit in New York since 2017 wouldn’t take the gloss off another memorable season in which the 25-year-old captured her second grand-slam crown, at Wimbledon, among a tour-topping five titles.
“The last six months have been a roller coaster,” Barty said.
“I think back to the very first match that I played on this trip.
“I was 5-2 down in the third set in the first round of Miami. Tennis has a funny way of evening things out, doesn’t it?
“I’ve played a bunch of matches this year where I’ve come from a break down or late in the set, opponents trying to serve out the match. Sometimes you get to-and-fro.
“You can’t win every single tennis match.
“I’m proud of myself and my team for all the efforts we’ve put in in the last six months. It’s been pretty incredible.
“I don’t think we could have asked for much more honestly.”
Barty’s unexpected departure ended Australia’s Open singles hopes after Ajla Tomljanovic suffered a 6-3 6-2 third-round loss to power-serving Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova earlier in the day.
Pliskova rocketed down 20 aces in just nine service games to abruptly end Tomljanovic’s breakout grand-slam season.
The Wimbledon quarter-finalist had been bidding to reach the second week at successive slams for the first time in her nine-year pro career.
But despite plenty of heavy hitting from the baseline, Tomljanovic was unable to make any inroads against Pliskova’s nigh-on impenetrable serve and bowed out after just 71 minutes.