Aussies show they are on the way back
LOST in the carnage of a tumultuous first week at the French Open, Ajla Tomljanovic and James Duckworth quietly laid the foundations to career renaissances.
The pair lost first-rounders to high-class opponents — Tomljanovic to fourth seed Elina Svitolina and Duckworth to third seed Marin Cilic.
In the overall scheme of things, the result were irrelevant. The fact the injuryscarred Australians were back on the highest stage was far more significant.
For Tomljanovic, once touted as one of the brightest talents on the tennis horizon, her recovery from rankings oblivion has largely gone unheralded.
Ranked 929th only 16 months ago after shoulder surgery, the right-hander has steadily climbed back to No. 68 in the world.
As she reflected on the Svitolina defeat ahead of an event in Bol, Croatia, this week, she conceded her boundless ambition often smudges decent achievements.
“I kinda forget sometimes where I was because I’m so always goal orientated and never really satisfied,” she said.
“But if someone had told me last year I’ll be back here at 68, and you’ll have your entry in a slam, I would have signed right away.
“But it gets clouded a little bit because you always want to do better and better.
“But when I take a moment and think about things, I’m happy with my progress.”
Now mid-career, the former prodigy is determined to make up for lost time.
“I’m 25, I’m not considered young any more when they talk about the young players coming up,” she said.
“But I feel young because I haven’t played as much tennis as I would have liked.
“Life happens, it knocks you down and you gotta respond.
“There are so many other ways it could have gone after I had surgery or even when I had mono [nucleosis] when I was 20. It’s OK that nobody knows that. It’s only the people around you who know the bat- tles that nobody really sees.
“It’s a reality check. But I don’t look at that.”
Duckworth echoes those sentiments. After five surgeries in 18 months, the Sydneysider was not overly fussed by a straight-sets defeat to US Open winner Cilic.
“It was nice, it was much better than being at home doing rehab,” he said of his first match at the highest level in 16 months. “It was enjoyable.”