Mirjana Lucic-Baroni Stuns Second Seed Simona Halep to Reach Slam Last-16 After 15-Year Wait
Second seed Simona Halep lost 6-7, 2-6 against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the third round. Lucic-Baroni last experienced such a deep run at a major at Wimbledon in 1999 when she reached the semi-finals.
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, one of tennis' hottest talents before being engulfed by personal trauma, reached her first Grand Slam fourth round in 15 years Friday when she beat second seed Simona Halep at the US Open.
The 32-year-old Croatian, ranked at 121 in the world and who had to come through qualifying, won her third round clash, 7-6 (8/6), 6-2.
She last experienced such a deep run at a major at Wimbledon in 1999 when she reached the semi-finals. Just 17 and ranked 134 at the time, she was defeated by Steffi Graf.
But her career and personal life then went into freefall when she revealed she was abused by her father, Marinko.
As a result, Lucic-Baroni and her mother and siblings were forced to flee the family home in Croatia to find refuge in the United States.
"There have been more beatings than anyone can imagine," she once said.
Her father insisted that he had never used excessive force.
"If I gave her the occasional slap, it was because of her behaviour; I did what I believed what was best for the child."
On Friday, the blonde Croatian, who arrived in New York on an eight-match losing streak, was almost lost for words.
"It's incredible, amazing, I feel goofy," said Lucic-Baroni after knocking out world number two and French Open runner-up Halep, coming back from 2-5 down in the second set and saving two set points.
"I had a game plan and I believed I could do it. I have been playing really well. I just kept fighting.
"After so many years, it's incredible. I live for this. I am 32. Every painful moment has been worth it."
Lucic-Baroni, who reached a career high of 32 back in 1998, set a series of records in the 1990s.
She won the women's doubles title at the Australian Open in 1998 with Martina Hingis when she was only 15.
She also won the first ever professional tournament she entered, the 1997 Croatian Open and defended it the following year at 16, making her the youngest player in history to successfully defend a title.
But as her relationship with her father deteriorated, her career slumped and for the best part of four years she didn't play at all, missing the US Open for seven years.
On Friday, she fired 31 winners past Halep, her junior by 10 years, as she set up a fourth round clash against Italian 13th seed Sara Errani.
"She played really well," said Halep. "I was 5-2 up and had set points but she came back well and everything was working.
"She's a good player. She's tall, serves well and she deserved to win."