Aussies show they are on the way back

Sunday Tasmanian - - Sport - LEO SCH­LINK

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.”

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