Tomljanovic: Serena “inspired me to go for my dreams”
Australian Ajla Tomljanovic has the chance to end the career of 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams on day five at this year's US Open.
In a record-breaking career spanning across four decades, only one Australian player has managed to score a singles win against the indomitable Serena Williams.
Ajla Tomljanovic now has the chance to become the second, when she faces the American champion in the US Open third round.
The world No.46 is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Aussie great Sam Stosur, who scored three career victories against the 23-time Grand Slam champion. The most memorable came at Arthur Ashe Stadium, when Stosur defeated Williams in the US Open 2011 final.
“It’s definitely something I’ll never forget,” said Tomljanovic ahead of their scheduled showdown tomorrow (from Saturday 9am AEST).
“It’s going to be a huge moment, no matter the outcome … I’ve been a Serena fan since I was a kid.”
Tomljanovic’s respect for the 40-year-old champion is evident.
“I think she’s changed the sport, tennis, but also what she’s done worldwide for women in sports is incredible,” said Tomljanovic, who has matched her career-best US Open result and is looking to advance to the fourth round for a first time.
“She’s paved the way for so many, inspired me to go for my dreams. Even her longevity. I’m kind of in the part of my career now where they call you on the older side. She’s made that kind of non-existent. ‘Old’ is not even a word in her vocabulary. Very grateful to her like that. I don’t think there’s anyone like her.”
This is 29-year-old Tomljanovic’s first career meeting with six-time US Open champion Williams, who is contesting the 81st and final Grand Slam tournament of her phenomenal career.
“I just remember watching her in Wimby finals, with my sister in front of the TV after my practices. It’s a little surreal to me that I made it, and played in the same era as her,” said Tomljanovic.
“I was quite sad before this tournament that I’ve never faced her so far. Could have been a chance I’ll never play her before she retires.”
With Serena’s run at the US Open reminding us, yet again, how incredible a force she is, here are reflection from four Aussies — Sam Stosur, Alicia Molik, Casey Dellacqua and Nicole Pratt — who faced her on the biggest stages.https://t.co/FI1oBzCILH
— Matt Trollope (@MattyAT) September 1, 2022
Williams has attracted record – and raucous – crowds for each of her matches during her farewell tournament.
Tomljanovic, who will be competing at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the first time, is determined not to let a patriotic American crowd become a factor.
“I was playing on Court 7 both of my matches so far at the same time as her, and I could hear the crowd. I’m like Court 7 isn’t that close. I kept thinking, ‘Oh, my God, that’s annoying me and I’m not even playing against her’,” Tomljanovic admitted.
Her plan is to “stay within my little bubble” and “block it out as much as I can”.
“I remember Novak (Djokovic) saying one time, when the crowd was against him, he just pretends it’s for him. When they chant, I don’t know, Rafa, Roger, whoever, he hears Novak, Novak. I kind of liked that response. I might use that.”
Former world No.1 Williams insists she is not feeling any pressure in her final tournament and is treating every match as a “bonus”.
“I don’t have anything to prove. I don’t have anything to win. And I have absolutely nothing to lose,” Williams said after eliminating world No.2 Anett Kontaveit in the second round. “I’ve had an ‘X’ on my back since ’99, so it’s kind of fun.”
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