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The Tennis Conversation: Ajla Tomljanovic
The pandemic made tennis even more mental for this globetrotter and My Tennis Life star, but it led to a major breakthrough last summer at Wimbledon.
Published May 14, 2022
With COVID restrictions easing, does it feel like things are more normal on tour?
I think everything is moving towards a more normal direction. For me, personally, I’m still very scared of catching COVID at whichever tournament I find myself playing. I’m still very careful and not living as normally as I did pre-pandemic.
Do you feel other players are similarly concerned about getting sick?
There are definitely players who take the whole thing more lightly; I err more on the conservative side, but that gives me the peace of mind I need to make it through these tournaments.
What have been some coping mechanisms you’ve used?
I found that talking through negative feelings has helped so much in the past two years. Before, we were always on the go and it was easier to internalize things. Now, you have so much time to yourself that it’s natural for over-thinking to occur, and it can just spiral out of control if you’re alone with these thoughts.
How important has it been to maintain virtual connections with fans and friends?
For a while we felt like people were forgetting about tennis. First, we weren’t playing, and then you couldn’t come watch us live, so it helps to bring people behind the scenes. I think it’s human nature to wonder what we’re not seeing, and on My Tennis Life I’ve certainly tried to present content that is authentic as possible to answer those questions.
Having taken long breaks for injuries in the past, did that prepare you for COVID lockdown?
You would think it would have helped, but it really didn’t because it was just so different. When it first happened, I was thinking in a very selfish way that we were robbed, and how we didn’t do anything to deserve this. When I’ve had injuries or illnesses in the past, there was always a protocol where you know what you’re doing, and you have a clear time frame to recovery. I really did struggle a lot, internally—even if I did put on a brave face and do all my workouts—and I could feel I wasn’t as happy as I usually would be. The unknown was really hard to for me to accept.
What did it mean for you to come out of lockdown and make your first Grand Slam singles quarterfinal at Wimbledon?
I’ve never worked so hard off the court on my mentality and perspective as much as I did in these last two years, and Wimbledon feels like the reward for all that hard work that people didn’t see me doing. I always believed in ticking all the boxes, and that mentality made me believe that moment would come. It was more about timing and when everything would come together. At the same time, until comes, you do wonder, ‘Is it ever going to happen?’
How does a big result affect your motivation going forward?
No one will be able to take my best results away from me. People move on so quickly in tennis that next week, there’s always another winner somewhere else. That’s just part of the tennis life, but I’ll never forget that part of my career. I’m so happy to have made those memories, and I’ll always be able to look back on how I achieved one of my childhood dreams.
Do you find that personal happiness helps you play your best tennis?
I’m trying to stay in the moment as much as I can. Life passes by so fast that we don’t always realize that what we’re doing as tennis players is so fun. It’s kind of like a dream hobby that it became a job. I hate calling it that, because it doesn’t feel like a job. So I try to remember that this is what is making me happiest right now, and that helps me go through everything with a smile on my face—even when things get tough. I feel very privileged to have something I love be something I can pursue so seriously.
Speaking of things that make you happy: describe your ideal pool party. What's happening, and what's on the speakers?
My ideal pool party would include all my best friends, amazing food—burgers, fries, margaritas and something fruity—really good music—Reggaeton, hip hop and Croatian—and a really hot day, where all you want to do is be in the pool. I’m a little spoiled, the water has to be really warm for me to get in.
And you get one special guest...
The person I’d really want to invite is Rihanna!