Ajla Tomljanovic
Ajla Tomljanovic, seen continuing her comeback in Mexico last month, is in Australia's BJK Cup team. Image by EPA PHOTO
  • tennis

Tomljanovic in BJK Cup team despite rusty return

Glenn Moore October 10, 2023

Ajla Tomljanovic has been included in Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup team despite only playing two matches after returning from nine months out with a knee injury.

The former world No.32, currently competing with a protected ranking having dropped to 430th in the rankings due to her long absence, was part of the team that reached the final last year.

She returned to action at the US Open and beat Panna Udvardy in the opening round, but the three-setter left her drained and she withdrew from a second round meeting with Elena Rybakina due to fatigue. Entering the Guadalajara Open last month on a wildcard she lost to Taylor Townsend, then ranked 101, in straight sets.

Storm Hunter and Ellen Perez also return from the quintet beaten by Switzerland in Glasgow, but Priscilla Hon and the now-retired Sam Stosur have been replaced by Kimberley Birrell and Daria Saville.

Hunter, and possibly Perez, will be hot-footing it from the WTA Finals in Mexico. Hunter has qualified for the doubles with Belgian partner Elise Mertens while Perez is on the cusp of doing so with American Nicole Melichar-Martinez.

As beaten finalists Australia automatically qualified for this year’s event, to be played in Seville, Spain, November 7-12.

They are paired with Kazakhstan and Slovenia in the 12-team finals.

Alicia Molik’s team launch the event on centre court in the Estadio de la Cartuja against Slovenia on November 7 but the key match is likely to be against Kazakhstan who have Russian-born duo Rybakina and Yulia Putintseva in their team.

World No.5 Rybakina won Wimbledon 2022 and reached the final of this year’s Australian Open while Putintseva is ranked 68th in the world. Birrell is Australia’s highest-ranked player at 102.

This is the biggest team competition in women’s tennis but it starts only two days after the end of the WTA Finals in Cancun, which will feature the top eight singles players on the tour and top eight doubles pairings.

The singles include US Open champion Coco Gauff, fellow American Jessica Pegula, and world No.2 Iga Swiatek of Poland. All three have been omitted from their countries’ Billie Jean Cup teams.

Indeed, with Belarus (Aryna Sabalenka), Greece (Maria Sakkari) and Tunisia (Ons Jabeur) not qualifying Rybakina is the only player in the top seven playing in the BJK Cup.

Swiatek also skipped last year’s competition and said then that the “situation is not safe for our health” given the timing and distance.


Kimberly Birrell, Storm Hunter, Daria Saville, Ajla Tomljanovic, Ellen Perez.

Captain: Alicia Molik

With AP