AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 9
Embracing the pressure but shunning the spotlight, Ashleigh Barty has moved into lock-down mode in her bold bid to become the first home-grown women's Australian Open finalist in 40 years.
Already the first local woman since Wendy Turnbull in 1984 to make the last four at Melbourne Park, Barty knows the hype will reach fever pitch when she takes on American Sofia Kenin in Thursday's semi-finals.
But while aware of the growing hysteria, the world No.1 is keen to escape the limelight as much as possible before trying to emulate Turnbull's march to the title match in 1980.
"I'd prefer to just be sitting at home just living my quiet little life," the newly-crowned Young Australian of the Year said after withstanding a ferocious quarter-final challenge from Petra Kvitova on Tuesday.
Barty had to fight off eight break points - and save one set point in the vital tiebreaker - in a fiercely-contested opening set on Rod Laver Arena.
Having seized the momentum, the top seed took command in the second to prevail 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 in a rematch of their 2019 Open quarter-final.
Even the free-hitting Kvitova could only salute her brave opponent after throwing everything at an inspired Barty, only to come up second best.
"She's really proving she (is) deserving to be No.1)," said the outclassed dual Wimbledon champion.
"I knew that I had to bring my absolute best today against Petra. That first set was so crucial," Barty said after moving to within two wins of ending Australia's 42-year Open curse.
"She came at me with all guns blazing. That first set could have gone either way.
"It was really important to try and get my nose ahead when I could. It was nice to save a set point and get a roll on early in the second set with a couple of quick breaks.
"(But) you never have Petra until the last point is played. She's an unbelievable competitor. She keeps coming and coming."
Her milestone 250th tour-level victory, and 100th on hard courts, set up a return bout with Kenin after Barty beat the 21-year-old en route to French Open glory last June.
All up, Barty has won four of her five clashes with the world No.15 and will be a warm favourite to salute again on Thursday.
"She's developed a lot over the last 12, 18 months. She's a great ball striker who wants to be inside the court taking the ball either way," Barty said.
"It's about me getting my running shoes on, bringing variety and trying to bring the match on my terms as much as possible."
Barty knows expectations are rising and is enjoying the ride, accepting there's no point trying to hide.
But the great home hope is also happy for her tight-knit team to shield her from the spotlight as much as possible.
"I don't really have a lot of time actually. I've been on-site quite a bit, not really going for leisurely strolls around Melbourne," Barty said.
"When I have an hour or two, it's more just going back to the apartment and spending time with family. That's about it.
"I don't pay attention to (the hype), honestly. I'm here to try and do the best that I can.
"Obviously it's exciting. Hopefully I can bring a smile to a few faces around our country and around the world."