Melbourne - Courageous Mirjana Lucic-Baroni wept tears of
joy on Wednesday as she described making her first Grand Slam semi-final since
Wimbledon in 1999 as "pure ecstasy".
The Croat, a former teenage prodigy whose career was
derailed by personal trauma, swept into the Australian Open last four by
upsetting fifth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in a Rod Laver Arena epic.
The emotional win kept her fairytale tournament alive, and
the 34-year-old is struggling to take it all in.
"I can't believe this. This is crazy. The only thing I
can say is God is good. That's all I can say. I can't believe it. I feel a
little bit in shock," she said, sobbing uncontrollably.
"To me, this is overwhelming. I will never forget this
day and the last couple of weeks. This has truly made my life, and everything
bad that happened, (it) has made it okay."
She added that winning was "pure ecstasy" after
fearing she may not be able to continue after receiving treatment to a heavily
"I started hurting pretty bad mid-match, especially
towards the end. The fact that I was able to do it and so well at the end, I
was really grateful," she said.
Next up is Serena Williams, who with sister Venus was among
the crop of teen talents emerging at the same time as the Croat in the 1990s,
along with Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova.
They haven't played each other since the 1998 Wimbledon, and
Williams said it was inspiring to see her old sparring partner come good again.
"I'm really happy for Mirjana. I was there when she first
started," she said.
"To see her be able to never give up actually is
super-inspiring to me. It's a wonderful story.
"At the end of the day, it really helps me to realise
that you have to always go for your dreams. So I feel like it's just
Lucic-Baroni's comeback has been the feel-good story of the
tournament, having dropped out of top-level tennis for most of the 2003-2010
period after fleeing an abusive father and suffering money and injury problems.
Seen as the next big thing when she made the 1999 Wimbledon
semis as a 17-year-old, she has been waiting 18 years for another crack at a
Grand Slam last four.
It also makes her the only Croatian woman to get so far at a
major since her exploits at Wimbledon 18 years ago.
"This is what I've been dreaming about, this is what
I've been training for," she said.
"At 34 years old, like I said before, I have a
wonderful home. I'm happily married. I would be perfectly okay being at home
enjoying my family.
"But I really knew deep down in my soul that I have
these results in me. To now be here and actually live these moments, it's
Lucic-Baroni has spoken briefly in the past about the
hardships she faced - a demanding father who dished out regular beatings,
fleeing with her mother and siblings to the United States, and money and injury
She has been reluctant to provide more insight in Melbourne,
but admitted she was "broken for a few years" and suggested she may
write a book about her experiences.
"I kind of want to be known as an amazing fighter, a
person who persevered against everything, against all odds," she said.
"And that's what I take pride in. So I don't know. Who
knows. We will see."