LONDON : Ajla Tomljanovic’s mother gets so nervous about her daughter’s tennis matches that she often opts to go on long walks with the family dog to block out the tension.
On Monday it became clear why Emina Tomljanovic usually adopts the head-in-sand approach as her daughter put her through the wringer before beating Alize Cornet 4-6 6-4 6-3 in an electrifying fourth-round rollercoaster at Wimbledon.
The nerve-shredding drama left 29-year-old Tomljanovic sobbing as she became the first Australian woman in more than two decades to reach back-to-back Wimbledon quarter-finals.
“I didn’t really think I could do it,” the 29-year-old told the crowd, which included Australian great Margaret Court.
Speaking through tears, Tomljanovic then explained why this year’s run to the last eight, where she will face Kazakh 17th seed Elena Rybakina, was extra special.
“The biggest thing that is different this year is my mum’s here. She didn’t watch any of my matches last year, even on TV,” said the Croatian-born Tomljanovic, whose 2021 Wimbledon adventure was ended by fellow Australian and eventual champion Ash Barty.
“She would walk the dog for hours and then check the score. I was so mad at her because I was like, ‘What if I’m never going to do this again, you missed it’.
“Well here you go mum, you’re welcome,” she added with a smile as her mother looked on sheepishly from the Court Two stands.
The 44th-ranked Australian had beaten Cornet in a topsy-turvy three-setter at last year’s championships and Monday’s encounter was no less eventful as both players kept being broken.
With Cornet leading 4-2 in the opening set, the players embarked on a sequence of six games that went against serve.
Although the 32-year-old Frenchwoman managed to win the first set during that run, it set a trend in a match which featured 16 breaks, with Tomljanovic coming out on top of that count 9-7.
None of them were as important as the final game, however.
After Cornet, who ended world number one Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak in the previous round, saved Tomljanovic’s first two match points, the players brought the crowd to their feet by trading brutal blows in a mind-boggling 26-shot rally.
It ended with Cornet’s tired limbs failing her as she smashed the ball into the net and immediately collapsed on to her back – hardly surprising considering the hard-hitting baseline contest had gone on for more than 2-1/2 hours.
Seconds later, Tomljanovic chased down a Cornet dropshot and almost toppled over the net as she flicked a backhand crosscourt winner to seal her place in the last eight.
Once she knew victory was hers, the tears streaking down her face summed up the emotions of the afternoon.
“From the get go I could tell Alize’s level was really high. I didn’t know if I could keep up with my physicality,” said Tomljanovic, who beat 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova in the previous round.
“She never goes away. She doesn’t give up till the last point and it’s very tough to play players like that.”
The last Australian woman to reach back-to-back Wimbledon quarter-finals was Jelena Dokic in 2000.