French Open 2014: The upsets continue as Ajla Tomljanovic grinds Agnieszka Radwanska into the dirt
There was a hint of the sun today in Boulogne and the beautifully floral gown Agnieszka Radwanska was wearing radiated the joys of an early summer day. Unfortunately for the Pole, her racket failed to resonate the spirit that filled Phillippe Chatrier and an eager Ajla Tomljanovic played some brilliant tennis to rid the tournament of yet another of its stars with a 6-4, 6-4 victory in an hour and 21 minutes. And in the departure of Radwanska from the French Open we may have discovered the arrival of a new star.
Tomljanovic was a student of the Chris Evert Academy in Boca Raton, Florida before she started to work with David Taylor late last year. Everything she has learnt was on display today – big serves, a brutally deep two handed backhand and an equally effective forehand - as she overpowered her much higher ranked opponent.
The Croatian is ranked 72 in the world and really, nothing in her recent results suggested the likelihood of an upset. Radwanska, the third seed here, had assumed the flag for the seeded players after the hasty departure of Serena Williams and Li Na.
In her first appearance at the French Open, Tomljanovic showed absolutely no stage fright as she attacked Radwanska’s second serve. Playing close to the baseline, she used her crosscourt backhand to telling effect as she converted both her break points to take control at 5-1 in the first set.
Radwanska sought to work her way back, producing a three game run to inch closer to her opponent. Tomljanovic helped her too, offering a pair of double faults in the eighth game, suggesting that nerves might just get the better of her. But then the Croat had an extra break and served without too much fuss to put the set to bed in 37 minutes.
Tomljanovic lost to Sloane Stephens in the second round at Melbourne after winning the first set. But it was Radwanska again that faltered here at the start of the second set. A double fault did not help her cause either and Tomljanovic took her third break of the match.
Coming up with a big serve almost everytime she needed one, she held steady to deny any real opportunity to her Polish opponent. But in the eighth game, serving to get within a game of victory, Tomljanovic displayed a sign of nerves.
The Croat served a double fault to offer the first break point of the set to her opponent. But she saved that and a couple of other break points before going on to complete perhaps the most important service hold of her nascent career to retain her edge at 5-3. A frustrated Radwanska threw her racket down in disgust at the missed opportunities.
Radwanska kept her hopes for a second life intact by holding the next game with a thundering ace to leave Tomljanovic with the task of serving out the match. But when Radwanska ended a lengthy rally by dropping the ball in the net, Tomljanovic was just two points away from a sensational victory. Victory was accomplished on her first match point when the Croat kept her end steady in another rally, before Radwanska sailed a forehand long to end the match.
In only her fourth Grand Slam tournament, Tomljanovic has a great opportunity to make the quarters. She faces the winner between Taylor Townsend and the 14th seeded Carla Suarez Navarro in the fourth round.