Tomljanovic sets US Open clash with Serena Williams
Ajla Tomljanovic will face the retiring Serena Williams for the first time in her career after recording a come-from-behind victory at the US Open.
Ajla Tomljanovic has set a tantalising showdown with Serena Williams at the US Open, after a come-from-behind win in the second round.
The top-ranked Australian woman battled through a match of major momentum swings to overcome Evgeniya Rodina 1-6 6-2 7-5 in two-and-a-half hours.
Equalling her career-best-showing at Flushing Meadows with a second straight third-round showing, Tomljanovic will aim to again call on her composure when she faces the American great.
“It’s definitely something I’ll never forget in my career. It’s going to be a huge moment no matter the outcome,” said the 29-year-old Australian, who will meet Williams for the first time in her career.
“No matter the fact that I’ve been a Serena fan since I was a kid, on Friday night I’ll just be a competitor and I’ll try my best to win.”
Following her hard-fought first-round win over Karolina Muchova, world No.48 Tomljanovic required another gritty performance to set a showdown with the retiring Williams.
The 33-year-old Rodina was contesting her first event in three years, after becoming a mother to two children since her last tournament, on the grass courts of Eastbourne, in 2019.
Having utilised a protected ranking of world No.73 to enter the US Open, Rodina made a mockery of her unranked status as she upset the 27th-ranked Marina Trevisan in the US Open first round.
Rodina appeared on a similar course as she served for victory against Tomljanovic at 5-3 in the third set.
But Tomljanovic drew on recent career highlights – including a second straight quarterfinal at Wimbledon and an upset of top-five ranked Paula Badosa in Cincinnati – to win the final four games of the match.
“It was definitely a hard-fought win today. She made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I was a little bit frazzled more than I’d like,” Tomljanovic said.
“(It) felt good to win that one because I didn’t feel my best, but fought hard, and I think in the clutch moments came up with some good tennis.”
Rodina dominated early against Tomljanovic, opening with a service break, consolidating and gaining another break against the Australian to take a 3-0 lead.
She saved two break points to extend that lead to 4-0, before Tomljanovic made it on the scoreboard in the fifth game. But Rodina maintained control, converting her third break point to claim the opening set in 33 minutes.
A prompt turnaround appeared likely when a more clean-hitting Tomljanovic gained a double break of serve to take a 3-0 lead in the second set.
An extended medical timeout disrupted that momentum, Rodina leaving the court and returning with her upper right leg bandaged. It didn’t impact her tennis, with the 33-year-old gaining a break back.
It was a temporary blip for Tomljanovic, who steadily elevated her level to force a third set.
In a tense decider, Rodina gained a narrow advantage as the pair exchanged service breaks early on. Serving first provided an advantage for the Russian, who served for victory in the eighth game.
After gaining the break, Tomljanovic further asserted authority with a love hold. As her winner count grew at critical moments, she also drew errors from Rodina.
A first match point featured an epic rally, Rodina securing an on-the-line winner that had the world No.48 requesting a replay. A second match point was another extended rally, but this time Tomljanovic dominated to force a final error from Rodina.
Tomljanovic completed her victory with 32 total winners, compared to 16 from Rodina. She’ll aim to reduce her unforced count – a damaging 57 against 38 from the Russian – when she faces Williams.
Tomljanovic was the fourth Australian to claim a day three victory at Flushing Meadows. Jason Kubler completed his first-round victory, while Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios also progressed to the third round.
Aussies in action – US Open
Women’s singles, second round
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) d Evgeniya Rodina 1-6 6-2 7-5
Men’s singles, first round
Jason Kubler (AUS) d Mikael Ymer (SWE) 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-4
Men’s singles, second round
 Alex de Minaur (AUS) d Cristian Garin (CHI) 6-3 6-0 4-6 6-2
 Nick Kyrgios (AUS) d Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) 7-6(3) 6-4 4-6 6-4
[Q] Daniel Elahi Galan (COL) d Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-3 2-6 3-6 6-4 6-3
Men’s singles, second round
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) v  Diego Schwartzman (ARG)
James Duckworth (AUS) v  Dan Evans (GBR)
Jason Kubler (AUS) v  Frances Tiafoe (USA)
Men’s singles, third round
 Alex de Minaur (AUS) v  Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)
 Nick Kyrgios (AUS) v [WC] J.J. Wolf (USA)
Women’s singles, third round
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) v Serena Williams (USA)
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