Ash Barty has crashed out of the Australian Open in barely-believable circumstances on Wednesday, losing her quarter-final clash with Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 2-6.
Barty had one foot in the semi-finals when she cruised through the opening set in just 24 minutes against her shellshocked opponent.
'WHAT THE HELL': Grigor Dimitrov's stunning mid-point walk-off
However a controversial medical timeout completely turned the match on its head.
After Barty broke Muchova to take a 2-1 lead in the second set, the Czech player called for the trainer and took a 15-minute medical break off the court.
The stoppage in play completely broke Barty's momentum, with Muchova appearing to be a completely different player in the second set.
The 27th-ranked Muchova reeled off nine of the next 11 games to send Barty packing in heartbreaking scenes.
Fans were left raging on social media, accusing Muchova of using the medical timeout as a tactic.
Muchova unfair play. Fake injury and after that absolutely ok. This is not tennis! Huge disgraceful!
— František Malý (@FrantiekMal1) February 17, 2021
Muchova not doing anything wrong but it’s the rule that’s crap
— LawlerKev (@LawlerKev) February 17, 2021
Barty completely capitulated as Muchova broke again and again to seal her spot in the semi-finals.
"We could never have imagined this after the first set," Sam Smith said in commentary.
"We've never seen anything quite like this from Barty.
Fans flocked to social media in disbelief over Barty's collapse.
What the hell happened during that medical time out!? Come on Ash!! #AusOpen
— Natalie Yoannidis (@NatYoannidis) February 17, 2021
— Mr TV Australia (@MrTVAus) February 17, 2021
What in the absolute hell happened to Ash Barty over these last 30 minutes? Man...
— The Semi Ojeleye Liker (@StevenTydings) February 17, 2021
What a tragic collapse from Barty
— Agabee. (@carabint) February 17, 2021
I can’t believe what I’m seeing from Barty after that 6-1 opening set
— Alex Syse (@alexsyse) February 17, 2021
My god Barty is so out
— Brad (@Alex50174508) February 17, 2021
Muchova's shock admission amid medical controversy
"I was a bit lost on the court and my head was spinning so I took a break and it helped me," Muchova said.
"I started feeling a bit lost by the end of the first set. Ash started very good. She played like no mistakes. It was very tough."
There was no sign of trouble for Barty early on as the top seed dropped just seven points while charging to a 5-0 lead in the first set.
Muchova took 21 minutes to finally get on the board.
Not letting up, Barty broke Muchova for a third time in the opening game of the second set to continue her utter domination.
Then the quarter-final turned spectacularly with the medical timeout.
Asked if she was injured, the 2019 Wimbledon quarter-finalist said: "No. It was more they just checked my pressure because, like I said, I was a bit lost. I was spinning.
"So they cooled me down a bit with ice and it helped me."
After coughing up her first double-fault in her next service game, Barty had to fight off another two break points to level the set at 3-3 with Muchova's time-out clearly halting the Australian's momentum.
Mixing deep moon balls with delicate backhand drop shots, the Czech grabbed another service break to surge to a 5-3 lead before snaring the set to level the match up.
Barely missing a ball as Barty's unforced error tally mounted, Muchova broke the Queenslander twice more in the deciding set before converting her first match point with an ace after an hour and 57 minutes.
Barty's departure extends the local singles title drought to a 44th year.
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