Clock strikes 12 on Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s U.S. Open run

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni struggles with a right knee injury in her loss to Sara Errani.Robert Sabo/New York Daily News Mirjana Lucic-Baroni struggles with a right knee injury in her loss to Sara Errani.

Two days after enjoying what she called the best day of her life, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni simply didn’t have enough left in the tank.

The inspiring comeback of the 32-year-old Croatian qualifier ended Sunday as she couldn’t follow up her Friday upset of No. 2 seed Simona Halep defeated by No. 13 seed Sara Errani 6-3, 2-6, 6-0 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“This has been a great two weeks, the best so far since I can remember for a long time,” Lucic-Baroni said. “Yeah, obviously right now I’m really disappointed. She’s a really tough player to play. Today I felt like I ran out of gas a little bit.”

Already wearing bandaging on her right shoulder, Lucic-Baroni needed a 10-minute medical timeout after dropping the first set to have her right knee tended to. After a trainer provided her some pills and the knee was heavily wrapped, Lucic-Baroni tore all the tape off following a Game 1 loss to start the second set. She felt pain on a return down 4-3 in the first which prompted the timeout, but the tape wasn’t comfortable.

“I have blisters, tapes, pain everywhere in my body, so I burned out a little bit today,” she said.

After ditching the tape, Lucic-Baroni began showing signs of life, winning the next three games. She broke Errani in Game 7 before sealing the set on serve, 6-2.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiRobert Sabo/New York Daily News Errani proves to tough for Lucic-Baroni on Sunday.

By the third set, however, Lucic-Baroni had nothing left. After Errani swept her in Game 1, Lucic-Baroni had a game-point opportunity on advantage, but lost the next three points to drop the game, which started a tailspin for the remainder of the match.

“Unfortunately I had a game point second game of the third set and I mishit a ball,” Lucic-Baroni said. “The wind took a ball away from me and I mishit very wide. Instead of 1-All, I lost that game. It’s love-2, and then kind of just rolling downhill from there, unfortunately

The aggressive Lucic-Baroni held a massive 45-4 advantage in winners, but with that came an ugly 69 unforced errors as Errani sat back and let her opponent essentially defeat herself.

Thus ended the remarkably resilient run of Lucic-Baroni, who hadn’t reached this phase of a tournament in 15 years as she dealt with problems professionally and personally, including accusations in 1999 that her father regularly beat her.

A year before at age 15, Lucic won the Australian Open women’s doubles title with Martina Hingis.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiRobert Sabo/New York Daily News Lucic-Baroni is coming off a huge upset of Simona Halep, but can’t continue the magic in Flushing on Sunday.

“Who would have that Mirjana Lucic with all she had to come through to beat Halep?” Hingis said. “Congratulations on that, because she’s been battling on and off the court and she’s come a long way.”

Lucic-Baroni had been toiling in small tournaments and hadn’t displayed anything in her performances to indicate a breakout was on the horizon. She far exceeded everyone’s expectations, which she takes great satisfaction in.

“I really take a lot of pride in fighting. I think it shows my character a lot, fighting and playing smart tournaments. … Everything I have done so far I absolutely earned it, and I’m very proud of it.”

Lucic-Baroni’s husband owns a couple of restaurants in Sarasota, and she eventually wants to have a cooking show and produce a cookbook. But for now she will continue to ply her trade, playing in Quebec next week.

Most immediately, she’ll tune the U.S. Open out.

“At least for the next couple of days, I don’t want to see another tennis ball being hit since I’m not in anymore,” she said with a smile.

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