Ajla Tomljanovic
Ajla Tomljanovic scored a dramatic post-midnight Australian Open victory against Petrea Martic. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • tennis

Battling Tomljanovic pulls off stunning Open comeback

Anna Harrington January 17, 2024

Ajla Tomljanovic has hauled herself from the brink of Australian Open elimination to mark her return to her home slam with an extraordinary first-round comeback win over Petra Martic.

A year after she was ruled out of the 2023 Open in tears with a knee injury that ruined most of last year, Tomljanovic came back from a 4-1 deficit in the decisive third set to prevail 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-4.

Ajla Tomljanovic
 Ajla Tomljanovic rallied from 4-1 down in the final set to reach the Australian Open second round. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

In outlasting Martic in the two-hour, 53-minute slogfest, Tomljanovic teed up a tantalising second-round clash with 11th seed Jelena Ostapenko.

“I really was out at one point,” Tomljanovic said at a sparsely packed John Cain Arena after midnight.

“I mean, I felt like she was kind of toying with me and I couldn’t read her serve.

“But 4-1 down, double break, you guys (the crowd) never gave up even more than me.

“I was like ‘if you’re here, I should give it my best’ … I’m really grateful that you all stayed this late.”

The 30-year-old had heavy strapping on her left thigh but it didn’t seem to affect her mobility.

In a rollercoaster first set, Tomljanovic spurned two set points on serve at 5-4, then was broken.

The Australian broke Martic after a game that stretched beyond 20 minutes but was broken back when she served for the set a second time.

Tomljanovic raced away to victory in the tiebreak, ending a 73-minute first set.

But Martic responded in style, bursting away to a 3-0 lead in the second set, then closing it out.

The Croatian big-hitter appeared on track to knock out the local hope until Tomljanovic turned the tide.

“She really keeps you on your toes. I felt like I never really got settled to play my game because she hits amazing shots,” Tomljanovic said.

“Then I can’t read her serve all the time so I felt like I really had to hang in there because I knew it could turn on a dime.

“Look, there was a bit of luck tonight and I’ll take it.”

Tomljanovic will now prepare for Ostapenko, who she had a fiery on-court dispute with at Wimbledon in 2021.