Former teen prodigy putting dark past behind her
MIRJANA Lucic-Baroni says her "soul is at peace” as her remarkable run to the Australian Open quarter-finals captivates the tennis world.
But the lowest-ranked player remaining in the women's draw says it is not right to say that she has nothing to lose in Wednesday's final-eight clash with fifth seed Karolina Pliskova, the 2016 US Open finalist who eliminated Australia's Daria Gavrilova on Monday night.
"I never think I have nothing to lose because I know I'm a good enough player to win matches, big matches,” Lucic-Baroni said.
"So every match, no matter who I play, I go in to win.”
Lucic-Baroni, 34, was a teen prodigy who won two junior grand slams before the age of 15 and made the Wimbledon semi-finals as a 17-year-old in 1999.
But financial and health issues, stemming mainly from a violent upbringing with her father, meant her career fell away dramatically for almost the entire next decade.
Nowadays, preparing for her first slam quarter-final since that famous Wimbledon run nearly 18 years ago, the world No.79 is "enjoying every minute” on court.
She did enjoy tennis in the first part of her career.
"But with a lot of personal issues and things that I don't really want to go too much into, those were difficult times,” she said.
"There were a lot of things going on on the outside that didn't allow me to play tennis and be able to separate what was going on on and off the court.
"I'm really grateful for the life I've had. I've married an amazing man, I have my family around me and I'm really happy.
"My soul is at peace, my heart is at peace. I'm here because I want to be here and I'm enjoying myself.”
The Croatian said her approach to matches now is different to when she was an up-and-coming teen.
"They say as you get older you get wiser,” she said.
"I think that's true. You just look at it differently.
"Now, I'm a bit more relaxed. Before there were a lot of outside things that played a big part in what was happening on the tennis court.
"But now I'm just able to block everything out, I'm able to ignore everything else.”