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Lucic-Baroni leaves Melbourne on a high despite semis defeat

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 25/1/17 Croatia's Mirjana Lucic-Baroni signs autographs after winning her Women's singles quarter-final match against Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova. REUTERS/Edgar Su
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 25/1/17 Croatia's Mirjana Lucic-Baroni signs autographs after winning her Women's singles quarter-final match against Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova. REUTERS/Edgar Su

By Melanie Burton

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Mirjana Lucic-Baroni offered no excuses for her meek departure from the Australian Open semi-finals at the hands of Serena Williams on Thursday, keener to discuss the career-high ranking that will follow her stunning run at Melbourne Park.

The 34-year-old Croatian was ranked 79th in the world coming into the year's first grand slam but after rolling back the years with a run to the last four is projected to leap into the top thirty when the new rankings are released next week.

"No more quallies!" said Lucic-Baroni, pumping her fists in the air in celebration of the main draw tournament entries her new ranking will earn her.

"That's amazing because who would have thought at 34-years-old I would be breaking my personal best. I mean, that's a little silly. It's crazy, but really fun. It's really nice."

"I always knew I could do it. It's easy to talk, 'I belong here, I'm good enough to be there.' Until results speak for you, it's all talk."

Lucic-Baroni first played at Melbourne Park as a 15-year-old star-in-the-making in 1998 before fading out of the game for a decade as off-court problems, including alleged abuse at the hands of her father, took their toll.

After rebuilding her career from the ground up, her remarkable renaissance in Melbourne caught the imagination of tennis fans around the world.

"Honestly she's an inspiration, she deserves all the credit today," said Serena. "Everything she's gone through, she inspires me."

Lucic-Baroni said she had received support from around the globe after downing world number three Agnieszka Radwanska then number five Karolina Pliskova on her way to the semis.

"It's been so incredible. So many friends, former players that played before, even before my time," she said.

"It's really incredible how much support I've received. Just about every person I know and don't know have accused me of making them cry."

Lucic-Baroni said she would be heading straight home and had no interest in who won the final between the Williams sisters.

"Would you believe me if I tell you that I don't care at all? I hope it doesn't sound the way it sounded," she laughed.

She made the most of her moment in the sun, taking time after the defeat to take a selfie with the Rod Laver Arena crowd in the background.

"The emotion was really nice," she said. "It was just a beautiful moment."

(Reporting by Melanie Burton; editing by Richard Lough)

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