Wimbledon 2019: Aussie coach plotting Ash Barty’s downfall against Alison Riske
He’s the esteemed Australian tennis brain plotting Ashleigh Barty’s Wimbledon demise.
And Craig O’Shannessy, the chief strategist for world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, makes no apologies after being commissioned to help devise a game plan for American Alison Riske to bring down Barty in the fourth round on Monday night (8pm AEST).
“I don’t work for Tennis Australia,” O’Shannessy told AAP on Sunday. “Tennis is a global game. I have no allegiances.”
O’Shannessy, also the ATP’s and Wimbledon’s chief tournament analyst, has been working with Djokovic for the past two and a half years, having previously assisted several other grand slam heavyweights.
Now he’s in Riske’s camp after being approached by the world No. 55’s coach Billy Heiser. “I’ve known Craig for a long time. I’ve always liked what he’s done,” Heiser said.
“I know he’s working with Novak and I just asked if he’d be willing to sit down and go over some things.
“And he went over some things for one of our other matches and I just asked if he could go over a few things against Ash. I hope it disrupts some things.”
Eager to gain any advantage, Heiser is confident Riske, already with a tour-best 13 grasscourt wins over the past month, can trouble Barty.
“I know we’re going to be prepared and I know that Ali’s going to go out there and play her game and, if she can do things at a high level, I think it’s going to give Ash some problems,” he said. “I think everyone knows she can play on grass and she’s dangerous.
“It’s not just grass either. She can play on all surfaces. It’s just getting her to be more consistent week in, week out.
“She made a final on clay last year. She made a final on hard this year, so she can play on all surfaces, but grass just simplifies things for her. But Ash is No. 1 in the world for a reason.”
The Albury-born, Texas-based O’Shannessy is no stranger to working against Australian No. 1s.
He masterminded then world No. 262 Melinda Czink’s first-round upset win over 10th seed Samantha Stosur at Wimbledon in 2011.
That was Stosur’s last grand slam loss before beating Serena Williams in the US Open final that year.
O’Shannessy laughs off the suggestion he’s a turncoat to be coaching against Australia’s new sporting golden girl. “I love Australian tennis,” he said. “I’m always available to help out.”
BARTY’S HISTORY WITH RISKE
All the hype is for a Barty-Serena Williams quarter-final showdown — but the blockbuster is no fait accompli.
While Barty is a warm favourite to take down unseeded Riske in the fourth round, Australia’s world No. 1 has good reason not to be counting her chickens just yet.
In a twist that has the Barty camp on guard against another ambush, the French Open champion finds herself up against the in-form American who three years ago ended Barty’s incredible comeback tournament.
It was on the Eastbourne grass courts in 2016 after Barty had won six straight matches as the world No. 9999 to surge into the semi-finals.
Then Riske struck, wiping Barty out 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 in their only career encounter to date.
Three years on and Riske again poses a serious threat to Barty’s title hopes. The winner of Wimbledon lead-up events in Surbiton and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, where she upstaged world No. 4 Kiki Bertens in the final, Riske arrived at the All England Club brimming with belief.
And the world No. 55 hasn’t disappointed, removing seeded stars Donna Vekic and Belinda Bencic en route to the last 16 of a grand slam for only the second time — and first time since the 2013 US Open.
Barty can “vividly” remember her meeting with Riske at Eastbourne. “Whenever Alison’s back was against the wall, she produced her best tennis,” the top seed said.
“I think that’s no secret. You ask any opponent that plays Alison, she’s up for the fight, makes you work for every single point.
“It will be really important for me to go out there and try and bring my variety, take my opportunities when I get them.
“Also I know she loves playing on the grass court. She’s going to make me play a million balls. I have to be at my best.”
Barty has been on court for barely three hours in reaching the fourth round without dropping a set, but feels ready for a second-week assault. “It’s always nice to have quick matches,” she said. “It’s nice to know that I can go in and execute and get my job done.”
Barty’s match is first up on Court 2. Chasing an eighth title to match Steffi Graf’s Wimbledon tally, 10th seed Williams plays Spanish veteran Carla Suarez Navarro in the first match on Court 1.
Victories for Barty and Williams would set up a heavyweight battle on Wednesday for a place in the semi-finals. “I’m just going to worry about Alison first,” Barty said.
WOMEN’S FOURTH-ROUND LINE-UP
1-seed Ashleigh Barty v Alison Riske (USA)
11-Serena Williams v 30-Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)
19-Johanna Konta (GBR) v 6-Petra Kvitova (CZE)
Barbora Strycova (CZE) v 21-Elise Mertens (BEL)
8-Elina Svitolina (UKR) v 24-Petra Martic (CRO)
Karolina Muchova (CZE) v 3-KarolinaPliskova (CZE)
7-Simona Halep (ROM) v Cori Gauff (USA)
Zhang Shuai (CHN) v Dayana Yastremska (UKR).
Originally published as ‘No allegiances’: Aussie against Ash