Home » ‘Cool-headed’ Ajla charges into final; bad back cruels Aussie’s Wimbledon seeding dream

‘Cool-headed’ Ajla charges into final; bad back cruels Aussie’s Wimbledon seeding dream

‘Cool-headed’ Ajla charges into final; bad back cruels Aussie’s Wimbledon seeding dream

Ajla Tomljanovic will play for the biggest title of her career in Birmingham on Sunday but Jordan Thompson’s dream of securing a Wimbledon seeding has been dashed after he injured his back during a tight semi-final loss at the Queen’s Club in London.

Whether Alex de Minaur receives a coveted top 8 seeding for the All England Club Championships also remains up in the air with news seven-time champion Novak Djokovic will travel to London on Monday to keep alive his hopes of playing at Wimbledon.

Playing in just her fourth tournament since surgery to remove uterine tumours in February, Tomljanovic has recaptured her best form on the grass in Warwickshire and was too strong for Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (5) 6-4.

“I just tried to keep a cool head. I felt like I was almost too into it in the beginning and I felt like I was losing a lot of energy caring about every single point. I just tried to let go and focus on what I could control,” she said.

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The 31-year-old is a three-time grand slam quarterfinalist but has never won a tournament on the main WTA Tour, with her biggest success coming in a 125-tier event in Florianopolis last November.

Tomljanovic, whose last tour level final came in 2019, plays world No.41 Yulia Putintseva in the final. The diminutive Kazakhstan player holds two WTA titles and leads their head-to-head 4-1, with Tomljanovic’s only success coming in Adelaide in 2020.

But the Australian does have superior grass court credentials, which includes her quarterfinal runs at Wimbledon in 2021 and 2022, and said she felt most comfortable when playing in the United Kingdom.

“For me, grass court tennis is meant to be played in the UK. So I love coming back. I love having the same swing,” she said.

Tomljanovic shakes hands with Potapova. (Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images for LTA)Source: Getty Images

It has been an important week for Tomljanovic, who missed the majority of last year with a knee injury after reaching back-to-back quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2022, which included her triumph over Serena Williams in the last match of her career.

Having been hindered by a career-threatening shoulder injury in her early-to-mid 20s, the knee problem arose just as Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup star was starting to capitalise on the promise she had shown as a junior.

The former world No.32 is playing in Birmingham on a protected ranking, the reserves of which are finite, but she has made significant progress back towards the top 100 this week.

Having started Birmingham with a ranking of 190, she sits in the mid-130s on a live estimate and would jump to a spot between 110 and 120 if she defeats Putintseva.

“I definitely did not expect to play a final here,” Tomljanovic said.

“I really do try to take it one match at a time, as much of a cliche as that is, I have never looked ahead. I am not going to do that now either.

“I will do my best to prepare and give it my all and then when it is over, I will reflect on the week. But you know you are in a good place when the players’ room is empty.”

Tomljanovic is in fine form ahead of Wimbledon. (Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images for LTA)Source: Getty Images

Thompson, meanwhile, required treatment for a back complaint midway through and after a 6-3 3-6 6-3 loss to Italian Lorenzo Musetti in a highly entertaining semi-final at the Queen’s Club where little separated the two players.

He appeared to hurt the back when reaching low for a backhand early in the second set, but was the better player through this stanza before Musetti settled into rhythm late in the set and finished more strongly in a match Thompson described as a “seesaw” battle.

In a match of fine margins, the 30-year-old defended grimly on his serve throughout the deciding set until an attempt at a backhand drop volley missed by the barest of margins, with the two rivals anxiously awaiting a replay after Thompson challenged the call.

The Davis Cup star was scheduled to play in Mallorca next week but told ATP Tour officials that was now a distant proposition in supplied quotes. Thompson had been requested for interviews after the match but instead required treatment for the back problem.

“Next week, probably 99 percent no. (I’ll) get ready for Wimbledon and get healthy,” he said.

Jordan Thompson receives treatment on his back. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP)Source: AFP

Thompson needed to reach the final to confirm a seeding at a grand slam for the first time but has moved back inside the top 40 after enjoying a fine week on the grass until the back complaint flared.

Whether de Minaur, who was beaten by Musetti in three sets in the opening round at the Queen’s Club after claiming a title in the Netherlands last week, is seeded in the top eight at Wimbledon depends on the fitness of Djokovic.

The 24-time major champion underwent surgery on a torn meniscus after injury his knee at the French Open earlier this month, but has posted footage of himself training in a bid to compete at Wimbledon for the 19th time in his career.

“My love for this sport is strong and the desire to compete at the highest level is what keeps me going. I’m going to do my best to be healthy and fit to return to the court as soon as possible,” he posted on social media from Paris the day after his operation.

Djokovic has eyes on the Olympics in Paris as he seeks to add an Olympic gold medal to his remarkable resume.