New York City, United States, 28 August 2023 | Matt Trollope

A heart-warming story unfolded on Court 4 at the US Open as Ajla Tomljanovic posted a win over Panna Udvardy to advance to the second round.

Playing in her first match of 2023, a season decimated by a knee injury, Tomljanovic gradually found her range to complete a 3-6 6-2 6-4 triumph.

She joins Daria Saville in the second round at Flushing Meadows, another Aussie on the comeback trail after a similar amount of time on the sidelines due to a knee injury.

> READ MORE: Saville sets up Swiatek showdown at US Open

Tomljanovic’s win sets up a meeting with No.4 seed Elena Rybakina, who beat her in a three-set Wimbledon quarterfinal in 2022 en route to her first Grand Slam title.

Tomljanovic may not have hit those heights, but she is a three-time major quarterfinalist herself, most recently at last year’s US Open.

That run was most notable for her stunning third-round win over Serena Williams – the last match of the legendary American’s career.

But Tomljanovic was unable to leverage the momentum she built with that result; she played just five more events before her knee injury took hold.

Until Monday in New York, she had not played a competitive match in nine months.

The Australian looked understandably scratchy in the early stages of her match with Udvardy, and struggled with her movement at end range. She finished the opening set with 15 unforced errors, compared with just four winners..

But when the ball was in her strike-zone, she appeared to have lost none of her fearsome stroke production. And as the second set commenced, she began to land more of those powerful blows against the Hungarian, while playing increasingly clean tennis.

She slotted an ace down the T to hold for a 5-2 lead, and broke serve again to send the match to a third set.

There, she fell behind an immediate break, but recovered it in the fourth game, and continued holding serve to nudge ahead 5-4 in the third.

Former world No.4 Jelena Dokic, commentating for Channel 9, noted Tomljanovic was still playing aggressively yet not aiming too close to the lines, a sensible tactic to ensure margin for error given her complete lack of match play.

In the end, those tactics proved enough.

In the final game, Tomljanovic outsteadied Udvardy, who double-faulted to hand the Aussie her first match point.

She needed only one, forcing an error and covering her face in both disbelief and delight.

Aussies in action – US Open

Women’s singles, first round
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) d Panna Udvardy (HUN) 3-6 6-2 6-4
Daria Saville (AUS) d [WC] Clervie Ngounoue (USA) 6-0 6-2
[10] Karolina Muchova (CZE) d [WC] Storm Hunter (AUS) 6-4 6-0
Mirra Andreeva d [Q] Olivia Gadecki (AUS) 1-6 6-3 6-4
Jennifer Brady (USA) d [LL] Kimberly Birrell (AUS) 6-3 7-6(4)

Men’s singles, first round
[WC] Rinky Hijikata (AUS) d Pavel Kotov 7-5 5-7 6-3 7-5
[Q] Dominic Stricker (SUI) d Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-3 6-4 3-6 6-3

Men’s singles, first round
[13] Alex de Minaur (AUS) v [Q] Timofey Skatov (KAZ)
Max Purcell (AUS)
 v Chris O’Connell (AUS)
Jordan Thompson (AUS) v Botic van de Zandschulp (NED)
Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) v [12] Alexander Zverev (GER)
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) v [Q] Hsu Yu-Hsiou (TPE)
Jason Kubler (AUS) v Matteo Arnaldi (ITA)
[LL] James Duckworth (AUS) v [Q] Felipe Meligeni Alves (BRA)

Women’s singles, second round
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) v [4] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) 
Daria Saville (AUS)
 v [1] Iga Swiatek (USA)

Men’s singles, second round
[WC] Rinky Hijikata (AUS) v Marton Fucsovics (HUN)

> READ: Eleven Australians to contest doubles at US Open 2023

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