Alison Riske: Who is unheralded American who upset No. 1 Ashleigh Barty at Wimbledon?

Another unheralded American pulled off a major upset at Wimbledon on Monday.

Alison Riske, a 29-year-old who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, knocked off No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty in stunning fashion — 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 — to advance to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam event for the first time in her decade-long career. It was just her third win ever against a Top 5 opponent.

Riske will face Serena Williams in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

In the meantime, here's a quick look at Riske — a former elite junior player who finally finds herself making waves on the sport's biggest stage.

Alison Riske celebrates victory in her fourth-round match against Ashleigh Barty. (Photo: Matthias Hangst, Getty Images)

A tennis family

Riske was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania, as part of a tennis-crazed family. 

According to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, she started hitting tennis balls to her father in the street in front of their home when she was just 3. The newspaper reported that Albert Riske loved the concept of individual sports in which his children's success wouldn't be influenced by others.

Though Alison Riske has had the most successful professional tennis career in her family, she is hardly the only athlete. Her older sister, Sarah, was a four-time all-American at Vanderbilt, and her brother Dan played collegiately at Division II West Liberty State. 

Respect, and no distractions

Riske was an accomplished junior player even before she was a teenager — traveling and competing in tournaments at 12.

By 17, she was attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open. And, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, she was not your normal teenager — she didn't own an iPod, nor have an account on Myspace or Facebook. 

Riske also made a name for herself with her demeanor on the court, according to the newspaper — never throwing or smashing her racket in frustration.

"I wouldn’t think of throwing my racquet because I get upset when I scrape it on a shot," she told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I take care of my things."

A slow, steady ascent

Riske planned to follow her older sister to Vanderbilt and verbally committed to enroll at the school after graduating high school. But a string of success in open tournaments during her senior season changed that plan.

"She would have not been happy with college tennis. There’s no way," Janice Irwin, who coached Riske when she was a child, told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "All of her life, she was a cut above."

So instead of going to Vanderbilt, Riske turned pro in 2010. Three years later, she came close to cracking the Top 50 — finishing No. 57 in the WTA's rankings. She's spent the five years since hovering in the Top 100, winning two WTA events and reaching the final in a handful of others.

Paranoid because of dad

Riske's father, Albert, is a former U.S. Secret Service officer who later worked for the FBI. Riske joked to CNN in 2017 that her father is similar to Robert de Niro's character in "Meet the Parents," and that he has made her "100% paranoid."

"Just going out, always looking left and right," Riske told CNN. "Or, you're in a crowded place, be alert. Where's the closest exit sign if you need to escape? Things like that."

Riske's mother, Carol, is a former English teacher, according to ESPN. 

Winning, and journaling

As her tennis career has continued, Riske has taken to documenting her life in an online journal/blog. 

"I love being a nomad and exploring the places I visit," she writes. "I was born to eat so I will take you on some palatable adventures, too. I am so excited to have you with me on this adventure and I look forward to sharing some of my favorite things and moments with you!"

Past entries include a trip to Prague for an event, and getting tea with her now-husband, Stephen, after a loss at Wimbledon in 2016.

Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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