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Ajla Tomljanovic and Donna Vekic are going back, back to the beginning, and reflecting on the origins of their nearly 20 years of friendship in a new WTA video series in partnership with the tour's sponsor Modern Health.

In part one of the series, release this week, Vekic recalls how they first met as children as a junior tournament in Croatia, when Tomljanovic was 10 years old and the best player in her age group by some distance. Tomljanovic, three years Vekic’s senior, recalls that Vekic, who burst onto the WTA as a teenager nearly a decade ago, was precocious even back then.

“I’m going to be brutally honest,” Tomljanovic begins with a chuckle. “She was this annoying kid. … She would just follow all the bigger girls. And I remember, oh my God, this little 7-year-old, and we’re all 10-year-olds. We’re in the double digits, and she’s 7. She hung out with us, and she didn’t care if someone was like, ‘Oh my god, you’re still here,’ or something.

“She did not care. She was confident from the very beginning. … I thought that was impressive for a 7-year-old.”

Perhaps Tomljanovic had precognition. In 2012, six weeks after turning 16, Vekic reached her first WTA singles final at the Tashkent Open—the youngest player in six years to reach such a final on tour. It was an achievement that was befitting for Vekic.

“Throughout my whole career, my whole life, I always enjoyed spending time with older girls, older people,” Vekic adds. “When you’re a tennis player, especially girls, we mature so young and it’s tough to relate to other girls our age who are not playing tennis.

“I think I’m really lucky, and I’m really grateful that I have, not only Ajla, but I have a couple of other really close friends. These friendships, they go beyond the tour, beyond our tennis careers, and I think these girls will be there with me and for me for the rest of my life. Even after tennis, because the tennis life is so short.”

Their paths diverged from there, as Tomljanovic honed her game in the U.S. at the Evert Tennis Academy and now plays under the Australian flag—but she and Vekic ultimately found their way back to each other. They not only grew up to play on the WTA Tour together, but supported each other in the highs and lows on and off the court. In the video, for example, Vekic says that when injuries, like knee surgery in 2021, left her questioning her future in tennis, Tomljanovic was one of the first to tell her to keep pushing forward.

“When I had those difficult moments, when I was thinking, ‘Should I keep playing or not?’, she was very supportive,” Vekic says. “She would say to me, ‘I know the level you can play at, and I really think you can come back; you just have to keep going.’”


Vekic can now play the same role for her good friend. The three-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, who sent Serena Williams into retirement at the US Open and is featured in Netflix’s ‘Break Point,’ has been sidelined for the entirety of 2023 so far as a result of a knee injury that necessitated surgery.

Though she's off the tour for the moment, Tomljanovic's moment in the spotlight in New York will feature heavily in the second half of the show's first season, which will drop on Netflix on June 21.