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Wimbledon 2019: Alison Riske breaks down over tragedy after Ash Barty win

The Advertiser 2019-07-08 22:57:00

A win over Ash Barty was about more than just tennis for Alison Riske.

The world No. 55 knocked off the top-seeded Aussie 3-6 6-2 6-3 to advance to the quarter-finals of a grand slam for the first time in her career.

And she couldn’t have wished for a more special place to achieve that feat than Wimbledon. Riske clearly has a special relationship with the All England Club and winning there holds a special place in her heart.

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It was obvious in so many of her answers to journalists’ questions how much she values the prestigious London major and the build-up of emotion overflowed when Riske broke down in tears at the end of her press conference as she talked about former British player and long-serving Davis Cup captain Paul Hutchins.

Hutchins was president of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) between 2006 and 2008 and also acted as tournament director of the Nottingham Open and Road to Wimbledon. He was heavily involved with the tournament and met Riske at her first Wimbledon. Sadly, Hutchins suffered from Motor Neurone Disease and died this year.

Riske remembered Hutchins as she talked about how the love the players feel at Wimbledon make it such a magical grand slam, and she paid particular tribute to Wimbledon Chairman Phil Brook.

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“All the people here have been special. Phil Brook, from the first time I came to Wimbledon, he’s remembered my name. I think it’s something that is really important for someone like me who wasn’t top 10, top 20, but Phil always remembered my name. That was something really special,” Riske said.

“There’s just been a lot of good people here in London that have looked after me.

“I think that’s one thing that always sets Wimbledon apart for me personally, is because they always made every single player, at least from what I witnessed, feel like they’re awesome and they’re doing a good job. They remember you. They remember your name. They remember if you did well a couple weeks ago.

“I think it’s really special that you can walk into a grand slam and someone says, ‘Hey, Ali, good to see you. Great job in ‘s-Hertogenbosch’. I think that’s really rare.

“From the first Wimbledon I played, I met Phil. The next year he remembered me, remembered who I was. I was feeling like, ‘Oh my gosh, does he do this with everyone?’ I felt so special. ‘Do I get a membership right now? What happens?’ He was amazing.

“Jill, his wife, the same thing. I met her once. I just saw her. I warmed up indoors today. Jill was hitting on the court next to me. She stopped and said hello. It’s things like that that are really special.

“Going along with that, I think for the late Paul Hutchins that passed away … sorry …”

Remembering Hutchins was too much for Riske, who broke down in tears. Despite looking like she’d be unable to continue, she was determined to finish her point, even as the moderator asked if she wanted to stop the media conference.

“What I was saying is Paul was there from the first Wimbledon, too. He would always have me to hit on the grass before Wimbledon started,” she said before leaving the interview room.

A win against Barty means Riske has achieved her dream of qualifying for Wimbledon’s Last Eight Club, which gives players extra perks at the iconic grounds, and she’s looking forward to playing Serena Williams in the quarter-finals.

“I’m so incredibly excited. The fact that it’s at Wimbledon, my favourite grand slam, the place that I had always dreamt to be in the Last Eight Club of, they can’t kick me out now, I’m here to stay,” she said. “I am just over the moon, so happy.

“I played doubles with Serena, but never played against her. It will be an interesting match. Again, I think today was a great preparation for me going into the Serena match.

“I’m ready for a war. She’s the greatest athlete I think that’s ever been on the women’s side. It’s going to be a huge challenge, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

While touring life can be a grind, the competitor in Riske loves it.

“It’s actually funny, I think the WTA Tour suits me so much because I enjoy practising, I love competing. I don’t like doing much at the end of the day. I just feel like the tour for me is really at home,” Riske said.

“Yes, there are a lot of times where you lose tough matches, but you know at the same time there’s going to be a chance next week is going to be better. I feel like that hope and that possibility is what keeps me going.

“I do love to compete. I love everything about what I do. I’m really proud, really proud of what I’ve done. I’ve stayed through the tough moments, fought through them. To get a quarter-final of a grand slam I think is an amazing thing.

“Hopefully it doesn’t stop now.”

Originally published as Star breaks down after tragic reminder