Tomljanovic : “The feeling of victory in a tennis match is a feeling that cannot be reproduced anywhere in life”
Ajla Tomlanovic answers Tennis Majors’ questions on chasing her tennis dream, before her Wimbledon quarter-final against Elena Rybakina.
Ajla Tomljanovic has become the first Australian women to make back to back quarter-final appearances at Wimbledon since Jelena Dokic in 1999-2000. At 29 years old, ranked 44, she is finally shining on the biggest stage after myriad injury troubles over the years (mononucleosis in 2012, shoulder in 2016 and 2017).
In the past eight days, the 44th-ranked Aussie has beaten Jill Teichmann, Catherine Harrison, Barbora Krejcikova, and Alize Cornet. Tomljanovic, who was born in Zagreb and switched nationalities to play for Australia just prior to the 2014 US Open after obtaining permanent residency, will face Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina for a spot in her first Grand Slam semi-final on Wednesday at Wimbledon.
In an interview with Tennis Majors, in her native language, Ajla spoke the importance of determination when things get difficult, on the feeling of victory she constantly chases, people she is most grateful to, and her next opponent.
Back to back Wimbledon quarter finals for you. It took a long time for your dreams to come true, you ran into many obstacles – what would your advice be to players who are in a similar place, how can they stay persistent?
Ajla Tomljanovic : You need to rely on the dream you had when you started to play tennis, something that pushes you never to give up – you need to channel that feeling in a way and to be aware of the fact that every week is a possibility for something new to happen. We have all witnessed a lot of stories where a certain player does not win many matches, only for that one week to come where they fulfill their dreams. No giving up!
During dark times of yours, what were the thoughts that kept you afloat?
Ajla Tomljanovic : I knew that I had the capacity to realize goals and dreams that I have set for myself when I was young. I can feel that there is a lot of good tennis still left inside me. The feeling of victory in a tennis match is a feeling that cannot be reproduced anywhere in life. I am in constant search for that feeling, I am never even thinking about quitting.
The feeling itself does not last too long: five to ten minutes maybe. Then it is gone, so you have to chase it againAjla Tomljanovic
The feeling of victory, you say. Could you describe it for us in words?
Ajla Tomljanovic : For me, it is like… Pure happiness, that sounds most appropriate. You never feel that sort of happiness: you feel that all the effort has paid off, all the good and bad moments that led to that moment of victory. You battle for two or two and a half hours to have that feeling, but the feeling itself does not last too long: five to ten minutes maybe. Then it is gone, so you have to chase it again. That is what pushes me to keep going.
Obviously, you get the most credit for your results, but who are the people who have pushed you in life, people who you are most grateful to now?
Ajla Tomljanovic : I have had a lot of coaches, but I have to say that my parents (father Ratko, professional handball player, and mother Emina) and my sister (Hana) have been the greatest support of mine. They were always there, the first ones to jump in and help me in my toughest moments and the ones who have believed the most in me. Without them, I would not be where I am now.
You played in the fourth round of the French Open in 2014, but here we are, two consecutive Wimbledon quarter-finals now. What is it about grass that suits your game so much?
Ajla Tomljanovic : I do not know to be honest. Up until one year ago, I was not particularly fond of grass. Everybody used to tell me: ’Oh, but you can be great on grass’, but I was not able to find the right balance, it just did not feel right. And then it clicked last year, so this year I had much more confidence going into the tournament. I told myself: ’Why not do it again?’ That just goes to show how far you can go when you believe in yourself.
Now that you have brought it up, we often hear players say that they have or that they lack confidence. How would you define "confidence" in tennis?
Ajla Tomljanovic : For me, confidence is a bit tricky. Sometimes I can be too relaxed when I feel really good, so I do not end up playing well. Personally, I feel best when I am aware that I have given my everything coming into the match in terms of practice, preparation, etc. You never know how you are going to play on a specific day, but I know that all the work I put in will pay off sooner or later. The beauty of our sport is that you never know when that moment will come, that magic week in which you will fulfill your dreams.
You never know where life will take you, but if you ask me right now, I see myself playing for a really long time.Ajla Tomljanovic
Your next opponent is Elena Rybakina. What is going to be your plan going into the match?
Ajla Tomljanovic : I know that Rybakina is a big hitter, she has got a huge game. When she is playing well, there are not many things her opponent can do, so I feel that it will help my chances if I am the first one to be aggressive.
Lastly, you are 29 years old, for how long do you see yourself at the WTA Tour?
Ajla Tomljanovic : I do not like to even think about it. What I can say is that I feel really young. I had several injuries and I skipped a few years basically, so my body is in great shape. You never know where life will take you, but if you ask me right now, I see myself playing for a really long time.