The stage is set for a bolter at the Brisbane International after the tournament’s top three women’s seeds crashed out with injury problems.
Enter American qualifier Samantha Crawford, the 20-year-old from Atlanta who shapes as the good news story the women’s side of the Brisbane event so desperately needs.
Even her quarter-final opponent Andrea Petkovic admitted she’ll need to resort to “classic YouTube stalking” to get the inside word on her opponent, ranked no.154 in the WTA and with precious little big game experience.
Crawford won three qualifying matches before upsetting seventh-seeded Swiss Belinda Bencic 7-5 6-4 on Wednesday, the result putting her into a final eight that, while still tricky, is a littler easier without big guns Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep.
“She won a lot of matches already so she must be in a good groove,” Petkovic said after beating Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-4.
“My coach, he watched almost the whole match until he came out on court, so I’m going to talk to him and listen to what he’s got to say.”
Right-handed baseliner Crawford, meanwhile, sounds like she will be flat out keeping her emotions in check when she confronts a packed Pat Rafter Arena crowd on Thursday.
“I was warming up before and I was like, oh, wow,” she said.
“Hopefully I’m a little more used to it and a little more comfortable.”
German Angelique Kerber, who is now the tournament’s top seed after the high-profile withdrawals of Sharapova and Halep, takes on Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova while Italy’s Roberta Vinci battles Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in the other women’s quarter-finals on Thursday.
In the men’s, Roger Federer will get his 2016 campaign started against Germany’s Tobias Kamke, while Canadian Milos Raonic will do the same against Croatian Ivan Dodig.