Ajla Tomljanovic in a happy place at US Open
With a Wimbledon quarterfinal and a top-five win among recent highlights, Ajla Tomljanovic takes many positives into her 2022 US Open campaign.
When Ajla Tomljanovic considers the Grand Slam she’d name as her favourite, her home major of the Australian Open will always feature most prominently.
But there’s something about the energy of New York that also makes the US Open special for the Australian.
“My social life is a little more active and it’s just hectic,” said a relaxed Tomljanovic as she prepared for the final Grand Slam of the season. “You know that when you come into these hopefully two weeks, you’re going to be really exhausted by the end of it.
“But for me, it’s a good thing that I can balance my work and my social life because that’s when I’m kind of at my best mentally.”
It means that while tennis will always come first for Tomljanovic, she also allows time to relax or enjoy meals with friends and family. The busy life is especially welcome after the pandemic-enforced restrictions of the past two years.
“I’m very excited to just spend my days actively,” said Tomljanovic, who was delighted to join fellow players including On Jabeur, Belinda Bencic and Jessica Pegula at Bethanie Mattek-Sand’s “Ladies Night in the City” event in New York on Friday.
“At the same time, I listen to my body, and I know if I need to chill more, I just take an easier day.”
The balanced approach is working brilliantly for the 29-year-old in an impressive 2022 season.
After a second straight quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon, Tomljanovic qualified for consecutive North American hard-court tournaments. Following her best result at the WTA 1000 tournament in Canada, Tomljanovic progressed to the Cincinnati quarterfinals.
The latter run included an upset of world No.4 Paula Badosa for Tomljanovic’s first victory over a top-five opponent in more than eight years. With progress over Veronika Kudermetova, she subsequently achieved back-to-back wins over top-20 opponents for the first time in her career.
It adds confidence for Tomljanovic’s ninth main draw campaign at the US Open, where she will aim to improve on her best performance of a third-round run last year.
While acknowledging there are no easy matches in a Grand Slam, Tomljanovic takes a positive outlook into her maiden WTA meeting with Karolina Muchova in the first round.
“She’s definitely up there with the ones that I’m going to have to bring my best and I’m excited,” said Tomljanovic of the Czech, an Australian Open 2021 semifinalist and two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist.
“I’m feeling good,” Tomljanovic added. “And you know, what I can control, I’m going to do that and on the day, we’ll see what happens.”
While Muchova has dropped outside the top-200 after an injury-interrupted season, Tomljanovic returned to world No.48 after her quarterfinal run at Cincinnati – but even that ranking doesn’t tell the full story for the Australian, given the absence of rankings points at Wimbledon this year.
Career-best form is helped by Tomljanovic’s more open approach to the challenges of big-stage occasions, with pre-match nerves a topic she now happily discusses with family, a psychologist or her friends.
“For me it’s been a little bit, like, career-changing,” said Australia’s No.1 woman. “It took me a little bit of time to realise that it’s actually going to help you … when you actually acknowledge it, it takes the pressure off. And it’s like, ‘well it’s OK that you’re feeling that way. It would be weird if you’re not’.”
A candid Tomljanovic admitted it’s an outlook that she would have benefited her career as a younger player. “But at the same time, it was my journey, and it is what it is,” she added with a smile. “I’m just glad I got it at some point.”
Besides, experience is clearly a powerful teacher and as she embraces further opportunities at Flushing Meadows, an increasingly mature Tomljanovic is clearly in a happy place.
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