Melbourne: World number two Angelique Kerber was sensationally bundled out of the Australian Open Sunday by a women playing the event for the first time, as Ashleigh Barty muscled past Maria Sharapova to make the quarter-finals.
On a hot day on Margaret Court Arena, the German Wimbledon champion was left stunned by American Danielle Collins who humiliated her 6-0, 6-2 in under an hour.
Ranked 35 in the world, she is little known on the WTA Tour after playing much of her tennis in the US college system and was making her debut in the main draw at Melbourne Park. She had never won a Grand Slam match before this year.
“I may not have won a Grand Slam match before this but I tell you, it’s going to keep happening,” said 25-year-old Collins. “I better have many more of these.” Collins said she held no fears about facing three-time Slam champion Kerber.
“I just go out fearless, just give it my all.” Her reward is a last-eight clash with either fifth seed Sloane Stephens or Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who play later.
Hometown hero Barty is also a surprise quarter-finalist after bringing Sharapova’s drive to win a first Grand Slam since the 2014 French Open to a grinding halt 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.
She will now meet Petra Kvitova, who matched her best Slam performance since a terrifying knife attack derailed her career by beating unseeded American 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova 6-2, 6-1.
Five-time major winner Sharapova claimed her biggest scalp since completing a drugs ban in 2017 when she rolled defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in round three and looked on track to carry the momentum forward.
The 30th seed won the first set but then fell to pieces in front of a parochial crowd who booed her at times, losing nine games in a row to surrender the second and go two breaks down in the third.
Despite offering some late resistence, and some unbelievable tennis, there was no way back for the 2008 champion. “She is an absolute champion,” Barty, seeded 15, said of Sharapova.
“She was never going to go away. I knew I had to keep chipping away — in a sense, trust the work we’ve done. I know that I can match it with the best.” The diminutive Barty, 22, has been in sizzling form, winning seven of eight matches this year to back up a title victory in Zhuhai late last year.
Next up is Kvitova, who beat Barty in the final of the warm-up Sydney International this month.