Ajla Tomljanovi's incredible comeback triumph advances her to the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
Ajla Tomljanovic, who advanced to the Wimbledon quarterfinals, spoke candidly about her relationship with tennis legend Chris Evert on the day she learned the championship was hers for the taking.
Tomljanovic, an Australian who was born in Croatia and now resides in Florida, defeated Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Monday to advance to a match against Kazakhstani 17th-seed Elena Rybakina. Tomljanovic achieved one of the most difficult victories of her career.
After a grueling match that lasted 2 hours, 35 minutes, Tomljanovic, who lost to eventual champion Ash Barty last year, was in tears because she couldn't believe she had once again advanced to this stage. Tomljanovic is the first Australian woman to reach the final eight for a second year in a row since Jelena Dokic did so 22 years ago.
Omljanovic, 29, had to swiftly confirm with her father, Ratko, a former coach and fitness instructor, that he had reserved lodging for an additional night. The Tomljanovic family has had a day-to-day booking since the second round, but the strong right-hander claims she won't jeopardize her success to this point by booking for an extended length of time.
Chris Evert, the renowned 18-time Grand Slam champion who has become her friend and mentor, was also on the phone with her. Even though Evert has been battling ovarian cancer this year, her commitment to Tomljanovic has not wavered.
Actually, our communication has increased over the past three months. She has really supported me this year. It's been wonderful," remarked Tomljanovic.
"At one point, I kind of felt bad. If you want to talk about challenges in life, she was going through something frightening. Oh, my god, I don't want to bother you with my troubles because you're doing something lot tougher, I distinctly recall saying to her once. She responds, "No, no, I actually appreciate the diversion."
"Since we care about each other, we took care of one other in that way. Before the match, she texted me to express her confidence in me.
Tomljanovic has said openly that she has struggled with self-doubt throughout her career. This was reiterated in her press conference following the game and even in her conversation with Evert.
She said, "Ajla, you're in the quarter-finals again," like three times, Tomljanovic recalled.
"I believe she said it again because I didn't say much and I was just giggling at her. She just kept expressing her joy for me. I said, "Can you believe I'm here after, I don't know, the talks we were having a couple months ago."
She responded, "No, I really do think you're here because you work so hard every day. Even though she had seen some of the hardest employees, there was always room for improvement.
It appears that extra step was taken. Former Australian tennis pro and current pundit Wally Masur has watched Tomljanovic develop since she was accepted into the Tennis Australia program by TA CEO Craig Tiley, which offered her far more resources than Croatia could.
The decision to travel to Australia, where Masur claimed she was already well-liked by the local players, was confirmed after a covert hit between Tomljanovic and David Taylor, who had previously coached Sam Stosur and was ranked 78th in the world at the time.
Masur, who three times advanced to the Wimbledon fourth round, claimed that Tomljanovic kept growing.
She is such a skilled player, but she has dropped a few signals that suggest some self-doubt, which on the surface shouldn't exist because she is so talented, Masur said.
She works hard and takes care of many aspects of the game. She is quite fit. The women's draw is quite open, so hopefully that self-confidence is growing. There is no doubt that she has a difficult task, but given how the women's draw is developing, everyone has a chance to seize the opportunity.
Additionally, the Evert connection should not be undervalued.
It isn't so horrible, is it? That person is adept at navigating a grand slam competition, according to Masur.
I suppose that refers to Ajla's base in Florida. Chris obviously spends her time there. That's pretty encouraging.
Tomljanovic decided to join Tennis Australia while she was the top player in Croatia. Overcoming adversity has been one of her strengths because she was labeled a traitor in her native country. On the court, though, she has occasionally been held back by a conservative style of play. However, the world No. 44 thinks she has opened the safe.
Since I have huge shots and am a large girl, I won't be running behind the baseline, she explained, "I had to learn, when I was coming through, to take more chance and not look at it as risk."
I believe I have a strong game, but I also have the option to play a little more conservatively, which can sometimes work in my favor and sometimes against me.
The difficulties are still present, as Masur notes. In her debut visit at the All England Club, Rybakina made the fourth round at Wimbledon and advanced to the quarterfinals of the French Open.
"In my opinion, Ajla performs best when she is winning the arm-wrestle and can advance. It's really difficult to defend against her incredible ability to smash a backhand or forehand down the line, according to Masur.
Rybakina is six feet tall, large, and strong, and she "simply crushes everything." You must defend when necessary and attempt to keep your portion of the points under control.
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