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“I’m just learning how to relax and stay competitive, without having that added pressure from myself”: Tomljanovic

After beating Chicago champion Garbine Muguruza in three sets, Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic spoke about how her mindset has changed as she has gained experience on the women’s tour

Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia talks to the media ahead of the 2021 Chicago Fall Tennis Classic WTA 500 tennis tournament Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia talks to the media ahead of the 2021 Chicago Fall Tennis Classic WTA 500 tennis tournament Image Credit: Zuma / Panoramic

28-year-old Ajla Tomljanovic credited her improved mindset and her ability to deal with losses better for her improved results this year – the latest which came on Saturday at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

The 47th ranked Australian scored the biggest win of her 2021 season by beating in-form Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 in one hour and 52 minutes to advance to the third round at Indian Wells where she will meet French Open semi-finalist Tamara Zidansek.

This was Tomljanovic’s first win over a top 10 opponent in seven attempts this year against an opponent who had just won the title in Chicago last week. The Aussie credited the same to her experience of being in these situations before and learning from them.

“I’m just learning how to relax and stay competitive, but without having that added pressure from myself because it can be a curse a little bit. I’m happy that I still want it as much as I do because it’s what keeps me going,” Tomljanovic told the press after her win. “I think what’s been really helpful this year is I’ve just accepted that whatever happens happens and I have to move on and then try again. I don’t try to dwell on the past or on the losses too long. Every tournament I take just as a new tournament. Happy to be even able to play.”

“I’m just happy that I kind of took everything I could from all the losses before and just did kind of my best to react in a way that will benefit me. I knew that I could have, again, lost, putting myself in good situations. But I’m going out there knowing that I’m capable and that I can come up with the goods when it matters.”

Tomljanovic, who reached the fourth round of the French Open way back in 2014 before injuries caused her slide down the rankings, admitted that she had a much harder time dealing with losses earlier – something that she is now working to improve.

“So I think I’m a big thinker. I will overthink even the smallest things, which sometimes works for me and other times it doesn’t. On top of that I just want it so much a lot of the times. There’s that little kid in me that all I wanted to ever do was play tennis and win. Sometimes it’s hard to accept the losses and it’s hard to accept that maybe where I thought I’d be, I didn’t hit those marks. It kind of builds in my mind that I kind of failed. Then I want it even more. I get into situations when it’s really within my reach. It’s tennis, it happens, you don’t always win. I sometimes make it bigger than it is.”

“Now that I’m a little bit older and I’m making runs that I haven’t before, it also makes me appreciate it a lot more. It makes me think, Why wasn’t I happier when I was 20, 21 making the fourth round of the French? That was awesome. Back then, you’re just younger, you take it differently. I think it’s always going to be a learning process for me. It never comes easily. But it’s definitely so worth it when I do get it right because like even when I’m playing well, I’m always ready for anything.”

I try really hard not to be that hard on myself and give myself more credit

One day after the new US Open champion Emma Raducanu told the media that she wanted to cut herself some slack and put down her early loss in Indian Wells down to inexperience, Tomljanovic echoed similar sentiments, saying she also wanted to give herself more credit when it is due.

“I try really hard not to be that hard on myself and give myself more credit. I did read some of Emma’s (Raducanu) quotes. I think for an 18-year-old to say that, she has a really good way she looks at it. What she’s done is unbelievable. I’ve read it. I thought to myself, I can even apply to that even if I’m 28.”

Tomljanovic added that she no longer hesitates to take a few days off from the game when she feels burned out in order to recharge her batteries.

“This year after the Open, I didn’t play. I said, Okay, I’m actually going to take a week off, not hit as much just to refresh my mind and be hungry now for these tournaments. Maybe in the past I would chase something that shouldn’t be chased, think the more that I play, the better I’ll get quicker. It’s not really the case, at least with me. So just being okay with taking a moment to breathe and not play has been beneficial for the rest of the year.”

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