Ashleigh Barty overcomes first-set loss to beat Maria Sharapova

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"She's a student of the game, she's improving all the time and, most of all, she's enjoying herself".

"She is an absolute champion", Barty said of the 31-year-old, who dumped defending champion Caroline Wozniacki from the tournament in the previous round.

"I think that's a silly question to ask", Sharapova said post-match.

'I mean, she's within the rules of the game, ' Barty said. At age 18, Barty stepped away from tennis for 18 months and had a short and successful stint in cricket, playing for Brisbane heat in the women's Big Bash League.

"I definitely played some tournaments in some unusual places the first year that I turned pro".

"At the same time, she can step in with her shots and be very aggressive".

Keeping her emotions under control was crucial in the victory over the former world number one Sharapova, as she had to come from a set down, in addition to holding her nerve to serve out the match in the third set.

Barty, the two-sport prodigy who returned from global cricket to tennis three years ago, had too much game for the tough 31-year-old Russian and won 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in two hours and 22 minutes to record one of the major upsets of the tournament.

Returning for a grass season in June 2016, Barty made an impressive comeback after reaching the semi-final in Eastbourne and the quarter-final in Nottingham, finishing the year outside the top-300 before returning to her best a year later.

I just had to take a deep breath and trust the work that I've done with my team, go up in the spots and whatever happens, happens.

"Even karaoke, I don't have a good voice, but I always try to do the best at whatever I'm doing".

Jaded with the constant travel and loneliness of being on tour, as well as the pressure from Australian fans desperate for Grand Slam success, Barty decided tennis was not for her.

"It's a tough one. obviously Petra is a left-hander so Ashleigh needs to take away that slice serve and not get beaten there", Navratilova said. "It's incredible that it's happening in Australia". I definitely had a let-down for many games straight, gave her that confidence, and she's a confidence player, as well. 'There is absolutely nothing better'.

But it was Clijsters who was gushing in praise of Barty on the eve of the home hope's quarter-final on Tuesday night against dual Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. Kvitova is on a nine-match roll, including a win over Barty last week in the Sydney International final.

Barty lives in Melbourne with her four dogs - Rudy, Maxi, Affie and Chino - and has been with her boyfriend, PGA Trainee professional Garry Kissick, since 2017.

When the reporter followed up with "Just the truth", the Russian star was not impressed.