LONDON — Ajla Tomljanović’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 Tomljanović usually adopts the head-in-sand approach as her daughter put her through the wringer before beating Alizé Cornet 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in an electrifying fourth-round rollercoaster at Wimbledon.
The nerve-shredding drama left 29-year-old Tomljanović sobbing as she became the first Australian woman in more than two decades to reach back-to-back Wimbledon quarterfinals.
“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, Tomljanović 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 Tomljanović, 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 Tomljanović 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 Świątek’s 37-match winning streak in the previous round, saved Tomljanović’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, Tomljanović 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 Tomljanović, 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 quarterfinals was Jelena Dokic in 2000. — Reuters