“She didn’t play very well in the first game [against Mladenovic]. But as a team – Alicia and I – we had seen enough quality tennis from Ajla to say, “You know what, we’re going to support you in this next game no matter what. We believe you can win ”.
“I think she really took that to heart and played an amazing game. We were very proud of her and the effort.
“She said it herself – she said ‘wow I didn’t realize how much pressure and wait [is there]’. It was way bigger than anything she had experienced playing week after week on tour. To know that she has this experience, she has gone up a level, it is the confidence that she can stow in her back pocket and be able to lean on it.
History shows Barty and Sam Stosur lost the decisive double to Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia, and Australia’s long wait to end their Fed Cup drought – which dates back almost 50 years – continues.
Match for the first time
It’s one of the quirks of professional tennis that some players can rarely face each other through the net, while some matches (Djokovic vs. Nadal, for example) have a long, long history. Tomljanovic has been in and around professional tennis for over a decade, enjoying a groundbreaking season in 2014, but she has never played against Barty, who is three years her junior.
They know each other well.
“We have trained together many times,” said Barty after her impressive fourth round victory over Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova. “We played doubles maybe once or twice. Obviously this is amazing for Australian tennis. I was delighted to see Ajla until the second week.
“She’s been knocking on the door for a long time. She’s a great girl, she played good tennis. I was glad she could get away with it.
Likewise, Pratt believes the two will know each other closely when they meet early Thursday morning (AEST).
“They’ve definitely hit it together a few times,” said Pratt.
“Week after week, they see each other. They trained here and there so they know each other very well.
Barty is the big favorite against Tomljanovic and retains a firm favoritism for the women’s singles title. However, former German winner Angelique Kerber could also emerge as a semi-final opponent for either player.
“A proud Australian”
Having either Barty, whose rise to the top of the game after returning to tennis five years ago continues to charm, or Tomljanovic in at least one semifinal on the holy grass, is a godsend for Tennis Australia. But in the case of the naturalized Australian Tomljanovic, it also represents a kind of return on investment. When Tomljanovic chose to change her nationality from her native Croatia, she switched to Australia instead of the United States, having trained in Florida since the age of 13. TA helped facilitate the move.
“Since I was little I was really ambitious and driven, and it was my dream to compete with the best girls and get the most of myself as a tennis player,” Tomljanovic said there. was seven when his movement was revealed. “I really believed that with Australia maybe I could take the plunge and reach a new level with my tennis, and that was a great thing.
“But also, when I was thinking of everything, I remembered when I first came to Australia for the juniors, I really loved the place right away, and the people are amazing, and I have family who live on the Gold Coast, and spend a lot of time with Dave [her then coach David Taylor, who is Australian], I kind of learned a lot about the culture and got to see a lot of similarities to the way I was raised. You love sports and people who work hard, and I can really relate to that.
For the Australian tennis system, having Tomljanovic – who has a career-high world ranking of 39 – in the green and gold and set to make his Olympic Games debut in Tokyo this month, the job necessary to bring Tomljanovic on board is bearing fruit.
“Yes, absolutely,” Pratt said.
“She was the one who approached Tennis Australia. She had family in the Gold Coast, and because she lived in the United States, she sort of didn’t have the same affiliation with her home country, well her birth country, Croatia.
“It was just for her and for us. It took three or four years to get it all through. Now she is a proud Australian.
Watch Ash Barty, Ajla Tomljanovic and all the stars in action at Wimbledon with every match of the tournament broadcast live and ad-free on Stan Sport and select games on 9Gem.