Ajla Tomljanovic had the Grand Slam run of her life a year ago at Wimbledon, beating Jelena Ostapenko and Emma Raducanu on the way to the quarterfinals.
But this year her father, Ratko, in the familiar, conservative manner of dads everywhere, scheduled the family’s rental home only through the first Friday. When the 29-year-old Australian advanced to the third round, Ratko scrambled to land a pricey spot in a boutique hotel closer to the site. London, this time of year, as Tomljanovic pointed out, is packed.
“You thought I’d lose second round,” Tomljanovic said to her father. “At least book it till like Sunday so it’s a good problem to have. I gave him a lot of crap yesterday. He didn’t take it well.
"Funny enough, today when I finished [Saturday], he’s like, `Oh, I have to book again.'" I’m not going to give him too much trouble because he’s been a great dad that way. But he stitched it up a little bit this week.”
It’s been that kind of fortnight at Wimbledon so far. The World No.1 Iga Swiatek saw her 37-match win streak end at the hand of Alizé Cornet and four former champions – Serena Williams, Garbiñe Muguruza, Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova – failed to reach the second week.
The top half of the draw features four Monday matches where half the players – including Tomljanovic – are unseeded. An accounting:
No.4 Paula Badosa vs. No.16 Simona Halep
This is one of the rare matchups we actually expected – and can’t wait – to see.
Badosa defeated the No.25-seeded Kvitova, a two-time champion here, 7-5, 7-6 (4) in the third round. This was huge for Badosa. It was the first time in seven grass-court matches that she prevailed over a seeded player.
She gets another one in Halep, who was a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Magdalena Frech. Halep, 30, is making her 10th appearance at the All England Club – and the first since winning the title in 2019. After her worst professional year, she’s in fine form, after reaching the grass semifinals in Birmingham and Bad Homburg.
“I’ve been struggling with the confidence lately,” she told reporters afterward. “But it’s normal after last year when I was injured and I didn’t win much. Tennis will come. If I keep doing every day what I have to do, I’m really confident that it's going to come at the highest level.”
Their only meeting came two months ago in the second round of Madrid, with Halep winning 6-3, 6-1.
“I think she played unbelievable in that match,” said Badosa, who advanced to Wimbledon’s fourth round a year ago. “I hope she doesn’t play like that next one against me. I think my [aggressive] game, she likes to play against players like that.”
Halep was asked how often she thinks about winning that Wimbledon title three years ago, one of the two majors she’s collected.
“This tournament back in 2019, it’s been the best tournament of my career," Halep said. "The matches that I played here were perfect. So I always have those memories and I always have confidence that my game is pretty good on grass.”
Alize Cornet vs. Ajla Tomljanovic
Eight years ago, Cornet lost the first set 6-1, then shocked the world, stunning five-time Wimbledon champion and World No.1 Serena Williams in a third-round match on No.1 Court. She had never previously beaten a Top 20 player in 13 Grand Slam attempts.
Saturday, it happened again as the pride of France took down World No.1 Swiatek 6-4, 6-2 to end her 37-match winning streak.
“After I won my second round, I knew that I would probably play against Iga,” Cornet said later. “I was telling myself someone would have to break the streak eventually, and why not me?”
Tomljanovic was a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 winner over former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova. She and Cornet have split four matches across their careers, but, crucially, Tomljanovic won their second-round match here a year ago, 6-4, 0-6, 6-3.
“We really had some long rallies,” Tomljanovic said. “I think she also has a shot to maybe win or make an upset. You never know what can happen in Slams.”
Before beating Swiatek, Cornet was being celebrated for consistency, for appearing in her record-tying 62nd consecutive Grand Slam main draw. The win over Swiatek – her fourth over a No.1 player – coupled with that upset of Serena, casts her in a different light.
“Maybe I think I’m a little more relaxed when I’m the underdog,” Cornet said. “I think I have nothing to lose, and that’s I am the most dangerous. I play my shots more relaxed. It’s a nice feeling to see that at 32 years old I’m still going strong like that.”
No.20 Amanda Anisimova vs. Harmony Tan
After defeating Serena Williams in the first round of her first Wimbledon, Tan has continued to astonish. In dominating Katie Boulter 6-1, 6-1, the 24-year-old Frenchwoman has now won three Hologic WTA Tour-level matches in a row for the first time in her career.
It was over in 52 minutes and Tan committed only five unforced errors and won 53 of 77 points. She’s an unconventional player, lacking in any major weapons – with the startling exception of the tweener. Tan ran down a Boulter volley lob with another between-the-legs shot, and eventually closed the point with an unreturnable backhand.
She’s now six-for-seven on grass, going back to a sprint into the semifinals of the WTA 125 in Gaiba, Italy. Tan is only the third player to defeat Serena in the first or second round of a major and advance to the second week, joining Venus Williams (1998 Australian Open) and Garbiñe Muguruza (2014 Roland Garros).
Anisimova showed remarkable poise coming back to defeat fellow American No.11 Coco Gauff 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1 in the last round. Anisiomva was up 4-1 in the tiebreak and lost the next six points.
“It’s obviously uneasy to lose a first set 7-6 and bounce back after that,” the 20-year-old Anisimova said. “It’s extremely difficult. But I was just trying to slow down the pace and just really take it one moment at a time. I could feel that the wind kind of calmed down as well so I was able to play my game a bit more.”
This win, over the recent Roland Garros finalist, stamped Anisimova as a legitimate threat to win the title. She has now scored 13 three-set wins, best among WTA players, and is into the second week of all three majors in 2022.
In their only previous meeting, Anisimova was a 6-3, 6-1 winner over Tan three years ago in the first round at Roland Garros.
No.17 Elena Rybakina vs. Petra Martic
Rybakina’s big game agrees with grass. She’s reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in her first two tries and has a 17-7 (.708) record on the green stuff.
It helps to have a big serve, and the 23-year-old from Kazakhstan checks that box. She had more seven aces in a 7-6 (4), 7-5 winner over Zheng Qinwen and has produced 23 for the tournament – and a tour-leading 191 for the year.
Martic, meanwhile, took care of No.8 Jessica Pegula 6-2, 7-6 (5). Coming into Wimbledon the 31-year-old Croatian had lost three consecutive matches, including two on grass.
History says this one will be close. Their only meeting – the 2020 semifinals in Dubai – went to Rybakina in two tiebreaks.