The champion in Tomljanovic’s corner as she attacks Wimbledon

“She repeated three times: ‘Ajla, you are in the quarter-finals again,'” said Tomljanovic.

“I think she repeated it because I didn’t say much, I just laughed at her a bit. She kept saying how happy she is for me. I said something like ‘can you believe I’m here after, I don’t know, a few months ago, the conversations we had’.

Chris Evert, the 18-time Grand Slam champion, has become a trusted mentor to Ajla Tomljanovic.Credit:Wayne Ludbey

“She said, ‘No, I really believe you’re here because you’re always working hard.’ As one of the hardest workers she’s seen, but there was always something missing for that extra step.”

That extra step seems to have been taken. Former Australian tennis star and current commentator Wally Masur has seen Tomljanovic come of age from the moment she was invited to the Tennis Australia program – with far more resources than Croatia could provide – by TA chief Craig Tiley.

This came after a secret hit between David Taylor, who had coached Sam Stosur, and Tomljanovic, who was then ranked 78th in the world at the time, deciding to move to Australia, where Masur said she was already loved by the local players. .

Masur, who made the fourth round three times at Wimbledon, said Tomljanovic kept building.

Tomljanovic celebrates winning the quarterfinals.

Tomljanovic celebrates winning the quarterfinals.Credit:AP

“It’s interesting because she’s such a good player, but she’s given a few hints that there’s a bit of self-doubt, which at first glance shouldn’t be, because she’s got real game,” Masur said.

“She’s really fit, she works hard and takes care of a lot of elements of the game. Hopefully that confidence will increase as the draw for women is quite open. She has a tough job, no doubt about that, but the way the women’s draw is going on, everyone is an opportunity that can seize the moment.”

And the Evert connection is not to be underestimated.

‘It’s not a big deal, is it? That’s someone who knows how to navigate a grand slam tournament,” Masur said.

“I think that speaks for Ajla’s base there in Florida. That’s where Chris spends her time, of course. That is very positive.”

Tomljanovic was the Croatian number 1 when she made the call to join Tennis Australia. She was called a traitor by some in her homeland, so overcoming adversity has been a strength. On the pitch, however, it was a conservative style of play that held her back at times. But the world No. 44 believes she has unlocked the safe.

“I had to learn, when I came through, I had to learn to take more risk and not see it as risk because I have big opportunities, I’m a big girl, so I’m not going to run behind the baseline,” she said.

“I think I have a strong game, but I have the ability to go back to playing maybe a little more conservative, which can sometimes benefit me and sometimes hurt me.”

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As Masur says, the challenges keep coming. Rybakina reached the quarter-finals of the French Open last year when she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in her first appearance at the All England Club.

“I feel like Ajla is at her best when she wins the arm wrestle and can get on the front foot. She has this amazing ability to smash a backhand down the line and also with the forehand, and that’s really hard to defend against,” Masur said.

“Rybakina is six feet tall, she’s big and strong, and she just crushes it … you have to defend when you have to and hopefully you can control your share of the points.”

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