Lucic-Baroni continues to inspire in fairytale run

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For all the remarkable stories thrown up at the Australian Open, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni's may be the best.

For the dream runs, with stunning upsets, of Denis Istomin and Mischa Zverev, the Croatian's progress in Melbourne has flown under the radar. The veteran advanced to her first grand slam quarter-final since 1999 with a 6-4 6-2 win over American qualifier Jennifer Brady on Monday. Her run to the last four at Wimbledon 18 years ago included wins over seeds Monica Seles and Nathalie Tauziat.

A star as a teenager, Lucic-Baroni won junior grand slams at the US Open (1996) and Australian Open (1997). At 15, she won her maiden WTA Tour title in Bol. In early 1998, she teamed up with Martina Hingis to win the Australian Open doubles. Lucic-Baroni defended her title in Bol and was ranked 32 in the world in May 1998, aged just 16.

Her stunning run at the All England Club, after an indifferent start to that year, followed. Yet, the ranking reached in 1998 remains a career-high as well-documented personal and financial problems derailed her career.

Lucic-Baroni won two Tour matches in 2000 and '01 and a first-round victory at the 2002 French Open would be her last for five years.

That was when her return began in earnest.

But it was far from the glamour of Centre Court, playing tournaments in places ranging from Midland to Campobasso to Biella to Charlottesville to Puebla to Albuquerque to Las Vegas. By the start of 2011, Lucic-Baroni was back in the top 100, only to struggle to stay there.

A title in Quebec City, sealed with a final win over Venus Williams, in September 2014 was the first since her defence in Bol.

Lucic-Baroni pieced together a winning record in 2016, despite a poor finish to the year.

But for Melbourne Park to be the mark of her latest singles run is a surprise. Heading in, she held a 1-8 win-loss record at the event. Now, the powerful right-hander has four straight victories, including a huge upset over third seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round.

"I'm a tough little cookie and really, really stubborn," Lucic-Baroni said in an on-court interview after her win over Brady.

"When I want something I will work really hard and I will do whatever it takes to get it. It's not a guarantee by any means that you're going to get there, but what a satisfaction I feel right now, incredible.

"I would tell anybody struggling out there, actually I can't say because the TV is here and I'm going to get fined."

Encouraged, she said: "F everything and everybody, whoever tells you 'you can't do it'. Just show up and do it with your heart."

That has helped take Lucic-Baroni this far, much later – but no less deserved – than expected.