Ajla Tomljanovic shows true Aussie spirit in Brisbane win
SHE may not be as Aussie as Vegemite just yet, but it was crystal clear as Croatian-born Ajla Tomljanovic eliminated Serbia's former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic 7-6 6-0 in the Brisbane International that Australian tennis fans had already adopted her as their own.
Tomljanovic, who has Australian residency status but is still awaiting her citizenship papers, displayed true Aussie grit fighting off two set points in the tie break to beat Jankovic, on the comeback trail from a devastating back injury, in their first round clash.
Ranked No.62 in the world, Tomljanovic is playing in this week's event for Croatia under WTA rules.
But she has already publicly embraced her new country and culture, and admitted she felt the power of the centre court crowd as she swept Jankovic aside in the second set as fatigue set in for her Serbian opponent.
"Yeah, you know it was very nice (the crowd). I tried not think about it too much, just try to stay in the moment and focus more about my game," the 21-year-old said.
"(But)... Every now and then it kind of goes through my mind that I have that on my side now. It feels really nice, I got to say."
Tomljanovic, who was born in Croatia and moved to Florida when she was 12, arrived in Brisbane in November to train with David Taylor, the former coach of Aussie grand slam winner Sam Stosur.
She wants to push her ranking toward to the top 20 this year and also play Fed Cup for Australia against Germany next month, although it's unlikely her residency will be finalised by then. Despite fading out of the game, Jankovic said she was happy just to be rebuilding a career she thought may have been over following a serious back problem last year.
"I spent two months in bed, barely able to walk.," she said after her comeback game. "I thought it was the end of my career."