Change in mindset helps Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic end grand slam hoodoo at Wimbledon

Only Ash Barty is ranked higher than Ajla Tomljanovic among Australian women. The world No.45 just had her best year on tour yet to her, the ranking is secondary.

There are turning points, or at least significant moments, in every athlete’s career.

Ajla Tomljanovic – Australia’s second-ranked women’s player, behind world No.1 Ash Barty – had one such moment in the second round at Wimbledon last year.

The 28-year-old, who starts her road to the Australian Open at this week’s Adelaide International, led France’s Alize Cornet 5-2 in the final set but dropped serve as she tried to close out the match.

Tomljanovic had given up those kinds of leads before at grand slams and it may have felt like groundhog day.

It happened at the Australian Open only months earlier, when dual grand slam champion Simona Halep chased her down after trailing 4-2 in the third set.

This time was different. She resolved that she owed it to herself to do her best to change her fate, after often beating herself in those situations previously.

Ajla Tomljanovic (left) meets Ash Barty at the net after their all-Australian Wimbledon quarter-final last year. Picture: AFP
Ajla Tomljanovic (left) meets Ash Barty at the net after their all-Australian Wimbledon quarter-final last year. Picture: AFP

At that stage, Tomljanovic hadn’t made it past round two at a grand slam since making the last 16 in 2014, but she went on to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

It took eventual winner Barty to stop her. There were lessons in that clash, too, but going that deep in a grand slam again was a major milestone.

“There was a little bit of a realisation that I felt a lot of heartbreaks after so many of these matches,” Tomljanovic told News Corp.

“Against Simona, I thought that, not that the world was ending, but it felt like, ‘What am I doing? I’m putting so much work in, just to feel like this’.

“I realised that tennis doesn’t owe me wins … it doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen – but I do believe that it could. So I took that pressure off myself.

“The sport is already hard enough that I wanted to give myself a break and be my friend more than anything.

“I just felt like, ‘I know what it’s like to lose this’ but the panic was maybe just a little bit smaller than before.”

Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic enjoyed a career-best grand slam run at last year’s Wimbledon championships. Picture: AFP
Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic enjoyed a career-best grand slam run at last year’s Wimbledon championships. Picture: AFP

Tomljanovic subsequently reached the third round at the US Open and went one round further at the ‘fifth major’ Indian Wells, including an upset victory over Garbine Muguruza.

Throw in representing Australia at the Olympics and Billie Jean King Cup, and this was her best season.

Tomljanovic begins the new tennis year ranked No.45, only six spots shy of her career high. But ranking is secondary, she says, to the more important strides she made mentally.

Now back in Australia – after spending the off-season in Miami with her family and boyfriend, Italian top-10 star Matteo Berrettini – she hopes to take more steps towards a top-30 ranking.

That goal begins with a first-round match-up against Brit Heather Watson in Adelaide on Monday morning.

“All I really want to do is, obviously result-wise, go as far as I can,” Tomljanovic said.

“ But it’s more about playing how I play in practice and if I do that, I’ll be pretty happy with myself.”

Originally published as Change in mindset helps Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic end grand slam hoodoo at Wimbledon

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